Every day, kids have conversations. Yet, when they are asked to put a conversation onto paper, they freeze. Between the punctuation and the dreaded overuse of the word said, dialogue isn’t easy to write. However, it can determine if a story is interesting or boring to the reader. In fact, I think dialogue is the window to a character’s soul. When I was teaching, I focused on using correct punctuation, creating realistic conversations and using fun activities to teach dialogue to kids.
Introducing Quotation Marks
Quotation marks are not simply used for dialogue. I like to tell students that quotation marks hug words. This helps remind them what direction quotation marks face. Also, the picture book, If You Were Quotation Marks by Molly Blaisdell is a fun story that challenges kids to think about “What would you do if you were quotation marks?”
Having children make their own comic strip helps them focus on dialogue. After all, when kids are first learning to write dialogue, it can be overwhelming for them to write a conversation along with thinking up a setting, description and plot.
Quotation Marks and Other Punctuation
By looking at examples of real dialogue in books, students can see how good conversations are written. For this activity, you can pass out sentence strips and then have students write down a sentence of dialogue. Have students use a different color for the punctuation. Then, write down some familiar dialogue from books you have read as a class. However, you should leave out the punctuation. It’s important to use examples of dialogue with regular statements, questions and exclamation so kids can see where to use commas and other punctuation. For instance,
- “I wonder when Sarah is going to be home,” Violet whispered wistfully.
- “Let go of me!” Max screamed at the man.
- “Do you want to go to the movies?” Jane asked.
Said, Said, Said
In their dialogue, I notice that kids sometimes use the word “said” over and over. To help break this habit, you can give each student a circle made from heavy paper and have them write down a different way to say said. Some examples are: reminded, yelled and commanded. These words reveal how a character is saying the words. Finally, you can have your students post their word on the wall.
What Would you Say?
For this activity, teachers can display pictures of people with vivid expressions on their faces. It could be two people in an argument or a person who has just been surprised with flowers. Then, you can have students write dialogue that is appropriate for the pictures.
Teaching dialogue to kids doesn’t have to be boring!
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