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Lesson Plan

Choosing Clear and Varied Dialogue Tags: A Minilesson

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Choosing Clear and Varied Dialogue Tags: A Minilesson

Grades 3 – 5
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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In this minilesson, students explore the use of dialogue tags such as “he said” or “she answered” in picture books and novels, discussing their purpose, form, and style. Students identify dialogue tags in stories, collaboratively revise a passage from a novel to add more variety to the tags, and then apply the text structure to stories that they have written.

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Dialogue Tags (handout): This sheet contains a list of dialogue tags that students can use in their own pieces of writing.

Dialogue Tags (interactive): This online tool provides students with information about dialogue tags, including their purpose, examples, how to use a variety of tags when writing, and other tips.

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By teaching students how to identify the text conventions in their own writing, revision activities help students become more responsible writers. 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 dialogue tags) is most effective when student writers "learn through language". Contextualized in the students' own writing and their need to communicate with their readers, self-editing activities allow students not only to learn through language but to learn through their own language.

Further Reading

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

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