How to Teach Dialogue in Writing to Younger Students

Introduce the use of dialogue through reading favorite books.
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Using dialogue correctly in writing can be a difficult concept for younger children to grasp. However, with clear instruction and a variety of engaging activities, they can begin to use dialogue correctly and confidently. Model the use of dialogue, provide activities where the students work collaboratively, and then finally release the students to use dialogue independently.

1 Introduce Dialogue

Read a book aloud and make a list of dialogue words in the book. The book "Frog and Toad All Year," by Arnold Lobel, has a chapter called “Ice Cream” that contains many examples of dialogue words. Post the list on chart paper and refer back to it as you do the next activity. Read an Elephant and Piggie book by Mo Willems. The books are engaging to younger students, and contain speech bubbles instead of dialogue words. As you read, pick a few pages to model writing dialogue. Have the students choose a dialogue word, such as “said” or “cried,” that is appropriate to the speech. Model writing a few sentences that include dialogue words and quotation marks. Read another page, but this time have students convert the conversation to dialogue.

2 Create Conversation

Create note cards with simple conversation pieces, such as “How are you today?” or “What is your favorite color?” Choose students to read the note cards and create simple conversations. Model writing the conversation as dialogue, using quotation marks and proper punctuation. Refer back to the chart paper list of dialogue words. Next, have the students practice simple conversations in groups. Have them write down the conversations, and check them together to ensure they are correct, while you guide the students who need more practice.

3 Practice Punctuation

Prepare a practice activity by printing dialogue sentences on large pieces of cardstock or laminated paper. Omit the quotation marks and commas. Divide students into small groups and give each group a bag of elbow-shaped pasta and the dialogue sentences. Have the students work together to put pasta quotation marks and commas in the correct places. Correct the work as needed, and have them switch papers with other groups to provide extra practice.

4 Use Dialogue in Writing

Have students use the skills they have learned to use dialogue in their own writing. Instruct them to write sentences that should include dialogue. Then, have them switch papers with a partner, and have the partner use a colored marker to mark quotation marks and commas. Once the students are comfortable marking dialogue, show them how to include it in a story and how to use proper paragraphing.

Tabitha Burgtorf began her career in the education field in 1999. Her experience includes elementary and middle school teaching, curriculum writing and writing education-related articles. Burgtorf holds a Bachelor of Science in elementary education from George Fox University and is certified to teach in Colorado.