Adding dialogue fleshes out the characters and varies the narration of the story. This technique pulls the reader into the story by revealing character traits and motives through conversations. The reader is challenged to interpret the relationship of the characters by analyzing their reactions and dialogue. By analyzing how the characters communicate with one another, the reader can deduct character motives and traits from the process of action and reaction.
Teaching students to add dialogue to their writing to strengthen the reader's experience in these ways can be challenging, but using a mentor text makes the abstract concept more concrete. To exemplify the technique, I chose to share Peter's Chair by Ezra Jack Keats with my students. The book contains many examples of how effective dialogue is used within a story.
Students begin by watching the ▶ Peter's Chair video. We discuss the dialogue portions of the story and I ask students if they notice any patterns in the writing.
We then discuss the contents of my dialogue flip chart. The flip chart focuses our discussion on how dialogues are used in stories. We also discuss the conventions of writing dialogue with regards to placement of the quotation marks, periods, commas, and paragraph placement. Dialogue writing cannot be effective if grammatical errors detract from its purpose. It is important to address writing conventions while discussing other literary techniques.
I model writing that incorporates onomatopoeia so students can see another concrete example. I use a Dialogue Mapping Organizer to keep their writing on target. After reviewing the organizer, we discuss ways to create dialogue to flesh out the characters. Students brainstorm together as I write a dialogue using their suggestions. This activity provides students with guided practice prior to independent work. After the discussion, I inform students that they will create their own writing, similar to the one I modeled, but on a topic of their choosing.
Students are given construction paper to create a story book with a partner that showcases dialogue writing. I remind them to use our mentor text, Peter''s Chair, as their guide. Students discuss and plan their writing content, structure, and technique with their partner. I demonstrate brainstorming about five to six different topics. Then, the partners have to narrow down one of the topics with sub-topics or details in order to plan their writing. I circulate to hear the discussions taking place. Students imitate how the author of Peter's Chair integrated dialogue into his writing. Students are learning by example.
Students share their work with classmates. I ask students to orally present their writing sample and explain how their technique improved their writing. They discuss their struggles and how they problem solve to create their stories. Each partner also discussed how they brainstormed ideas and their methods of categorizing and narrowing down topics and staying focused on the story.