We’ve been studying dialogue the past couple of weeks as we worked on spooky narratives. Students studied the dialogue rules (chanting comma, capital, quotations ad nauseam), edited copious DOL style sentences, created a tombstone for Said (because Said is Dead) listing a ton of different dialogue tags, creating both a Wordle and Tagxedo word cloud with dialog tags, and included at least two examples of dialogue in their Halloween narratives. Noticing that we still didn’t quite get this whole separate the tag from the quote thing, I did a quick reteach and then what turned into a bulletin board worthy performance assessment.
I read the famous Where the Wild Things Are aloud to my children, having them point out the few examples of dialogue found in the book. (I also planned an editing lesson using that book – it’s full of run on sentences!) I also pointed out that the Wild Rumpus has no words. I made it my students’ job to give words to the Wild Rumpus. Students each chose a page from the story and used sticky notes to add dialogue to the illustration. The requirements were that the dialogue had to be relevant to the story, include dialogue tags (keeping in mind that Said is Dead), and use appropriate conventions.
Once the students had created their conversation, they uploaded a photo of their page from Dropbox to the app Comic Touch Lite. Here they added speech bubbles for each character to the image. Even though they were technically speech bubbles, the students had to include the dialogue tags as well because we’re working on the punctuation of these types of sentences. The results came out awesome and totally became my next bulletin board.
With Halloween just around the corner, and the students starting to get hyped up, I strive to find engaging ways to tie the holiday into our instruction. The challenge is to stay away from some of the routine pumpkin lessons and find a rigorous way of letting the kids expend some of their built up excitement. We do this by writing Halloween narratives.
Instead of a generic “write me a spooky story” directive, we go at the narrative in a whole new way. This is the first time our students have been exposed to narrative writing this year, so we begin with a quick day of introduction. Using our interactive notebooks, students take notes on my side of the notebook. We define narrative as a story that is usually fiction. We also note that a narrative has several essentials. It must have a plot (defined as beginning, middle, and end); characters (with several outlandish examples); and setting (not just where, but the time of day, season, weather, etc.). As a class we then create a class Wordle (a word cloud) with all of the setting words that we can think of in a 10 minute period. I print out our class Wordle and the kids paste it on their side of the interactive notebook. Check out our Setting Words Wordle here!
The following day, our narrative assignment is explained. Students are given a 10 minute period to listen to songs selected from a spooky soundtrack. All of the songs are instrumental. I use the Unpleasantville Soundtrack found at Amazon.com, but any spooky soundtrack will work. As of the time of this blog post, that album is free. Students must select one song from the given tracks. Based on the title and the theme of that song, students must create a completely imaginary narrative that goes along with the music. They must at some point in the piece address the title and tie it all together. As students work on their narratives, they have free access to the iPods to listen to the music, so long as they continue to work. The room is completely silent for several days as students work through the graphic organizer, rough draft, editing, and final draft phases of the writing process. They are completely engaged in their work and instead of fighting to get a couple of paragraphs out of these budding writers, I’m getting pages!
We finish up the lesson by having students record themselves reading their own narratives on the Garageband software found on MacBooks. Once they’ve recorded themselves, I lay down the track they chose behind their voices to create a spooky story. We end up with a great way of publishing our writing – in an unconventional way. Though, at this point, I’ll remind everyone to be careful of copyright rules.