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Lesson Plan

Character Clash: A Minilesson on Paragraphing and Dialogue

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Character Clash: A Minilesson on Paragraphing and Dialogue

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Minilesson
Estimated Time 50 minutes
Lesson Author

Traci Gardner

Traci Gardner

Blacksburg, Virginia


National Council of Teachers of English



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From Theory to Practice



After a brief review of paragraphing conventions in dialogue, students select a piece of their own writing that contains dialogue. They go through the piece, highlighting the speech of each character in a different color. They then go through the piece again looking for and correcting "character clashes" that occur when two speakers are highlighted in the same paragraph.

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Character Clash Instructions: This sheet contains complete instructions for students to identify and correct character clashes in a piece of their writing.

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By teaching students how to identify the conventions used in their own writing, self-editing activities such as this paragraphing lesson help students become more responsible writers by learning through their own language. The power is shifted from the "correcting" teacher to the writers, who are able to make their own corrections.

Constance Weaver argues in Grammar for Teachers (1979), "There seems to be little value in marking students' papers with 'corrections,' little value in teaching the conventions of mechanics apart from actual writing, and even less value in teaching grammar in order to instill these conventions" (64). Instead, learning about grammar, conventions, and text structures (such as paragraphing) is most effective when student writers "learn through language" (see the information on Literacy Engagements for more details).

Jeff Wilhelm concurs in his brief "Undoing the Great Grammatical Scam!" (2001). Wilhelm explains, "If we want students to use language more correctly in their own writing and speaking, then we must teach them to do so in that meaning-producing situation that will co-produce and support that learning. What we need is the contextualized learning of correct language use" (62). This lesson plan accomplishes that goal.

Further Reading

Weaver, Constance. 1979. Grammar for Teachers: Perspectives and Definitions. Urbana, IL: NCTE.

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Weaver, Constance, Carol McNally, and Sharon Moerman. "To Grammar or Not to Grammar: That is Not the Question!" Voices from the Middle 8.3 (March 2001): 17-33.

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Wilhelm, Jeffrey D. "Undoing the Great Grammatical Scam!" Voices from the Middle 8.3 (March 2001): 62.

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This lesson is adapted from: O'Keefe, Alice M. 1996. Motivating Writing in Middle School. Urbana, IL: NCTE, 111-12.

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