Baby Blues Cartoon

Today I tried an idea I learned during my Abydos training this summer. We used a Baby Blues cartoon to take an exploratory look at dialogue. Previous to this lesson, we had taken a look at a mentor text, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (current class novel), and made some observations about what dialogue looks like on the page.

The students said things like:
-When someone is talking, there are those things. (We re-learned the words quotation marks.)
-It says like, he said or she said. (We call those tags.)
-The question mark goes before the quotation marks.
-There is a comma when there is a tag. The comma goes before the quotation marks.

Then, to begin the lesson, I showed them the cartoon and let them just think about it.


Our conversation went a little like this:

What’s happening?
They are talking.
How do you know they are talking?
It has those bubble things.
How do you know which bubble goes with which person?
It points to them.
What if we re-wrote this dialogue but in story form, without the cartoons? Would it be any different?
No, you’d just rewrite it.

At this point, I already have lots of colored sentence strips and a wall chart handy. I write the first person’s dialogue on a sentence strip. I put it up on the chart. Then, I write the second person’s dialogue on a different color and put it up. The students quickly realize that it doesn’t look right. We add quotation marks on a new color. Then, I question them about punctuation (without giving it away).

dialogue excercise

I noticed that as I asked more questions, my students started to become more engaged. I wasn’t telling them anything and they were having to figure it out. It was challenging.

Slowly, we worked step by step up to a pretty decent written piece of dialogue. We also talked about different kinds of tags and how we can add words to describe what the pictures show us. Tomorrow, they will work in groups. Each group will have to do the same exercise with one square of the comic. Then, we will come together to look at the final dialogue.

The following day, we will use the activity to write a set of “Dialogue Rules”, mirroring the example in Jeff Anderson’s Mechanically Inclined.

I’ll let you know how well this information sticks when we get into our narrative pieces at the end of this week.

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