.............................................................................................................................................................

 

.............................................................................................................................................................

Maria Fuhrmann
Drafting the Dialogue

Context: I use this lesson as part of a larger unit on narrative or imaginative essays, in which dialogue is an essential element. If left to their own devices, students struggle with dialogue; voice of character, speech tags, balance between dialogue and narration, and mechanics all present difficulty for writers. This activity is designed to give students practice with dialogue before they write their rough drafts.

Goals:
To reveal the identity, thoughts, and emotions of characters through dialogue
To review the correct mechanics of dialogue; quotation marks, paragraphing, commas, etc.

Materials:
Overhead projector
Copies of Tobias Wolff’s excerpt from This Boy’s Life
Highlighter pens
Dialogue tips handouts, Possible Scenarios handouts

Activities:
1. Working independently, students read Tobias Wolff’s excerpt from This Boy’s Life, highlighting passages reveal particular qualities of each character.

2. Four volunteers are needed to read the piece aloud; one plays the “part” of the narrator, another the Sister, one for Father, and the boy.

3. Volunteers are asked to share lines they highlighted. The piece is discussed as a whole, with special attention focused on speech tags, the dialogue itself, as well as balance between narration and dialogue.

4. Students are broken up into pairs, and dialogue tips (handouts) are read aloud. Directions are read, and students go to work crafting their own partner dialogues. (See below)

 

Possible Scenarios:

  • Once again, you walk in two hours past curfew. Your father is frustrated, your mother is furious, and you are indifferent.
  • Your friend orders a hamburger at a restaurant, but when the waiter delivers it, it is partially burned. Your friend is angry, the waiter is apologetic, and you are embarrassed.
  • Your teacher pulls you aside after class, accusing you of cheating on a test. You are indignant, and your teacher is disappointed.
  • You and a friend are taking a taxi to an important appointment, but the address has been misplaced. The taxi driver is impatient, you are worried, and your friend is blaming you.

5. Once they have had a chance to finish their dialogues, pairs are invited to share them aloud. Since it is a dialogue, assuming “parts” is the most effective and fun way to do it.

6. If time allows, shift the focus to the mechanics of dialogue, which was reviewed in previous sessions. The teacher will read examples of dialogue in which all punctuation has been removed. Students work together, copying the dialogue over again onto their papers, trying to include correct punctuation, capitalization, and paragraphing.

7. Volunteers write the “correct” versions of the dialogue on the white board, and the class as a whole discusses and reviews the correct use of mechanics for dialogue.