The English Teacher

Teaching Dialogue

UNIT: VOICES IN THE DARK [Focus: Dialogue]

The purpose of this unit is to develop skill in dialogue writing. [As a tip for new teachers. Design assignments that require or necessitate the skills which you wish the students to develop rather than just tell them to focus on a particular area. The following unit is an example of this principle.]

In this unit the writer-narrator sets up the plot situation in a beginning paragraph-not too lengthy. In this plot situation, the narrator -can not see- [either blind or blindfolded, etc.], -but can hear- two speakers, one "for" and one "against" the narrator. The dialogue should comprise 85% of the paper. The two characters discuss 'back and forth' focusing mostly on the 'blind' narrator rather than on each other. [The speaking characters may be 'developed' as well as the narrator through the dialogue.] The dialogue may have a theme.

*Incidentally the 'for and against' part of the assignment builds a tension and interest in the plot for both the reader and the listeners.

Note for the teacher: Writing dialogue is challenging and you might have an assignment where students first listen to what others say, and write down their words precisely in a dialogue journal. That way when they write dialogue, students won't project onto the character dialogue that might not be fitting. The dialogue will be more exact, precise, and realistic. *Don't expect Mark Twain quality dialogue from beginning writers. If the dialogues are to be read by the students orally, you might want to look at teaching oral reading in the haiku unit.

For information on how to analyze dialogue in literature, please see Teaching Literature .

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