I wanted to continue writing about tone today, in an effort to pay homage to the resources that have helped me to understand, and to once again, state the importance of being learners when teaching.  Here are some the resources I’ve used to help me learn more about this:

I composed a series of lessons on tone that I would be happy to share with whomever would like them.  Feel free to e-mail me at thnkgspecialist@gmail.com.  Be sure to follow here or on twitter @thnkgspecialist.

Day 1: It’s not necessarily what is said, but how it is said.

I decided to start by channeling their background knowledge on tone.  Many of them have heard the word before, and I am anticipating they will discuss “tone of voice,” “watch your tone,” or maybe even the tone of an instrument.  After we discuss their background knowledge, I am going to take them through a short activity where they say the same phrase “Hey you!” in many different tones.  For instance, they could say it in an inquisitive tone (a term I will use to label their tone of voice).  Perhaps they could also say this in a playful tone, like when summoning someone on the playground.  While going through this, I am hoping to point out that oftentimes the tone can reflect the mood, but that the tone more so refers to how something is said, not necessarily what is said.  In my opinion, this can be best reflected by using the same verbiage, but to communicate it in different ways.

After, I have a few songs in which I’d like to play for them.  We are going to read the lyrics first, because I want them to see that the lyrics actually have quite a different mood than the tone.  For instance, in David Guetta/Usher’s “Without You,” the lyrics actually portray a sad mood:

I can’t win
I can’t reign
I will never win this game
Without you
I won’t soar
I won’t fly
I will never make it by
Without you

Undoubtedly sad, as the narrator misses whomever he seems to have lost or will be losing.  However, when you actually listen to the song, the beat of the music coupled with the strength behind the vocalist’s voice as well as the major key in which it is performed help to create a more playful or joyous tone.  It helps us to think that, perhaps the narrator isn’t actually losing someone; he might just be happy that he has the person and can’t imagine losing them.  No worries, I’m not anticipating them identifying the major key of the song.

Day 2: Word Choice, Imagery, and Details

On this day, I want to more explicitly teach what tone truly is and its components.  Now, it is important to remember that I am teaching fourth grade, so this will not be as in-depth as a college or high school course would be. In fact, it will be a bit watered down, and I’d more so like to focus on three components: word choice, details, and imagery.  According to wikihow, diction and sentence structure/syntax should also be taken into account.  However, I need to work with what my kids already know.  If you’ve been reading, you know that my classroom is centered around words, making this a very nice segway for using word choice and imagery to determine the author’s tone.

I will be providing them with two original compositions, one of which they read in a story we used to learn about allusions to Greek Mythology.  The other passage, however, is the same event, simply written with a different tone.  We will use this as a warm up, and I am anticipating that they will understand that there are noticeable differences.  I will probably ask guiding questions such as : What differences do you notice about the passages?  How do the differences change the passage?

Passage 1:
Rain pattered on the windows as Rupert woke up. The drops slowly trudged down the windows, laughing at him.  The rain seemed to tear even more paint off of the windows outside. The clouds sunk in the sky slowly, dumping more rain on the slick streets outside.  He hated when the weather was crumby, especially on his birthday.  He rolled out of bed, his hair sticking up on one side, his eyes puffy with sleep.  He was usually quite a monster in the mornings, a force to be reckoned with.  In fact, he was so irritable in the morning that his parents rarely spoke to him.

Passage 2:
Rain sparkled on the windows as Rupert woke up.  The drops seemed to slide gracefully down, leaving shiny streaks in the windows.  Rupert looked outside; the grass looked a vivid green, the way it always does after a fresh spring rain.  He wasn’t happy about the crumby weather, especially because he was looking forward to going outside.  At least the windows seemed a bit cleaner than they were last night, he thought.  He rolled out of bed, sleeping sands left from Mr. Sandman sprinkling off of his eyes.  His mood was usually not the best in the mornings.  At this point, his parents knew this and simply ignored him.


From there, we will define word choice (including denotation and connotation), imagery (which has already been defined), and details (which will more so answer the question of how details work together to create a tone).   Hopefully, we will be able to go back to the passage and put labels on words or phrases they chose (i.e., “slide gracefully” and “trudged down” are differences in word choice).

Day 3: Using Tone Words to Identify the Tone

This is where we will actually begin using some of the tone words to identify the tone of a passage.  In my lesson, the students are able to sort the tone words that I’ve chosen (optimistic, pessimistic, serious, humorous, joyous, sad, humorous, serious, formal, informal) into positive and negative words.

From there, they will be given two passages for each pair of antonymous tone words, which is similar to the previous day’s lesson.  This way, they will be able to compare two passages side-by-side, each with opposite tones, allowing them to cite specific words and phrases that change the tone.  We will, again, go back to the passage from our study of allusions, and actually determine which passage seems pessimistic and which passage seems optimistic.

Due to the fact that there are ten passages, this may take two days.   I’m excited for this week, as I think this will truly be stretching their brains.  My goal, by the end of the week, is to be using some more authentic, longer texts.  We’ll see how it goes!

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