Dialogue in the Plot W: Lessons from "Everybody Knows Tobie"

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SWBAT explore dialogue in the PLOT W by examining a text featuring this plot device, "Everybody Knows Tobie."

Big Idea

Students enjoy writing with the element of surprise when they use dialogue to propel a Plot W narrative structure.

Short Story as Model

20 minutes

Post-Reading Discussion.  We will discuss the student responses to the exit tickets from yesterday as well as how to incorporate some of the same narrative structures in their own writing.  We are still reading this story for plot structure--the Plot W--because this structure is quite new to the students.  I know that it will provide them with an engaging mental model for making their own stories cohesive and interesting (W.9-10.3c), but it is new.  So this first part of the lesson may seem like a review from yesterday's lesson, and it is! 


Groups.  In four strokes, see if you can graph the story on a Plot W (answers may vary, but here is my cheat sheet (RL.9-10.5).

1.) The narrator wants a job and to be accepted. (down--initial setback)

2.) Tobie explains to him how we can do this, just say that he's Tobie's brother. (up--thing are getting better)

3.) The "gringos" in town almost reject the narrator. (down--a deeper setback)

4.) They accept him because he's Tobie's brother. (up--a seeming triumph).


Class Discussion:

I am hoping that the students can provide multiple examples drawn from their small group discussions (SL.9-10.1).  How does the presence of reversals explore the sense of false hope and acceptance in the story (RL.9-10.5)?  How does it create a powerful whole out of the various scenes depicted?

How does the writer use dialogue to convey turning points without stating them (RL.9-10.4)?  This method of writing is called inductive writing...how can you suggest to your audience the changes that are happening as you write dialogue in your own story (W.9-10.3d)? 

What type of Plot W makes sense for your character?  It might be good to think of an initial setback and then an even larger/grand setback that the character can attempt to overcome. 





Publication Information (link to an anthology containing this story)


Punctuating Dialogue

15 minutes

Dialogic scenes.  Often dialogic scenes (W.9-10.3b) can help push a story forward, and in the case of a dramatic text or screenplay, they are the sole means of propelling a scene forward.  In order to push this point, I have had students do improv exercises, short conversations to solve a problem, etc.  The idea is for students to get the notion that dialogue can propel the plot, and it does not always have to be narration that does this type of work.  Further, since the narrative structure includes four main vectors in the plot W., it can be helpful for students to imagine each of these as containing a scene (with dialogue!) of some kind (W.9-10.3c). 


Model  Essay.  My students seem to have some expertise in this area, and we have done some narrative work earlier in the year, so I will simply offer a student example to feature dialogue.  I will share this with you in two parts.  This first part comes from the beginning of a student sample story, and it gets the story off to a great start, with a bit of suspense and interest, and the dialogue is well punctuated.   Again, the focus is on creating functional dialogue that is well punctuated (L.9-10.2). 

I will read the following text and ask:

1.) How does the writer build interest in the opener?

2.) When does the writer indent during dialogue?

3.) How doe he use dialogue tags at the beginning, middle, end of a quotation?  How does he handle the punctuation here?  



Tick...tock...tick...tock...tick...tock. It was the last Friday before Thanksgiving break. I was in my last period of the day, taking a biology test. I was wondering my eyes throughout the classroom, not concentrating on the test at all. I was contemplating on cars and how I enjoyed to work on cars. The thought made me daydream about cars the majority of the class period, it also made me think of the car show this Saturday. I was so excited that the car show finally came to Chicago. I couldn't keep my excitement in me any longer and before I knew it I shouted a, “YESSS!”

Throughout the whole classroom. Everybody was looking at me with bewilderment all over their faces. My teacher Ms.Jeremy asked me

“Kyle are you okay?”

“Uhm...yeah, I was thinking about something,” I said back in reply.

At that moment the bell rang which indicated that school was over and the official start to Thanksgiving break. Without to much time to think about it I got up and zoomed past the other kids. As I walked through the door and into the hallway something cold hit the back of my body, it was an extraordinary feeling I’d never felt before. It was the feeling of being free for one whole week, it was a time to escape from this gap of reality and into my own world.

I was walking down to my locker until I heard someone call my name

“Hey, Kyle!”

I turned around to see who it was. It was my best friend Jimmy. Jimmy is a tall muscular guy that would look like a bully, but he is too nice to become one.

“Hey Jimmy what's up?”

“Nothin much man, what are we doing today?”

“I have no idea.”

“I got an idea lets go to Mr.Smith’s auto repair shop later today.”

“Alright man I’ll call you later,” I said.

“Okay dude don’t forget to call me,” said Jimmy. 

Using Dialogue to Create scenes and propel the Plot W

15 minutes

Model of plot-w-dialogue.  The following excerpt comes from the end of the same story.  I will project it on the board and have the students read along and refer to this text as part of our discussion.  

Note how the writer creates a resolution to the story through the dialogue (W.9-10.3b,c); also note how the writer uses the cherished object--the toy Toyota Supra--to help make the internal conflict a little bit more apparent.  This is powerful figurative language in the midst of dialogue!  (RL.9-10.4; W.9-10.3d) 


I will ask as I read:

1.) How does the writer use a cherished object?  (What is it?)

2.) How does the writer use dialogue (W.9-10.3b) to make the turning point of the scene and the final leg of the Plot W clear and purposeful (W.9-10.3c).


The text: 

I stared at my treasured object the Toyota Supra toy model, figuring out if it would help me in someway I was hopeless. After deep thought and consideration I decided to tell Mr.Smith the truth. I called him at six pm.

“Hell,o Mr.Smith, Kyle here.”

“Oh well hello, Kyle, did you find out information on the stolen car?”

“Well Mr.Smith...I knew who stole the car...it was Jimmy.”

“...Well that was certainly abrupt, thank you for telling me Kyle.  I will notify the police.”

I don’t know if what I did was right or wrong all I know is I did it for the cars my passion,my hobby. That call changed my life after that I never contacted or saw Jimmy I had lost my best friend but kept my pride for cars.  


Writing Time

10 minutes

I will specifically ask students to incorporate dialogue into a scene in their story.  My goal will be to circulate and check students' work--especially those students who may be having trouble with using dialogue (based on discussion and group work in this lesson).  

At the end of class, I will suggest that students can begin or continue writing their longer papers.  Many students get very  much caught up in this assignment and don't need to be told to do it; quite the opposite, as some far exceed the suggested length of the assignment.  That said, I want to give students multiple evenings to draft and polish this narrative.