Talking Heads
Teacher:  Bernadette Lambert, Cobb County School System

Overview: This engaging activity helps students process notes from research or an interview and turn the information into a script or dialogue for narrative, persuasive, or expository text.

Materials: Several slips or paper.  Pen or pencil.

Time: Approximately 40 minutes.

Instructional Sequence:

  1. Lead a discussion about how dialogue can work effectively in different genres such as expository, narrative, persuasive, and script.  Share examples from published works.

  2. Tell students they are going to write dialogue for characters from a story that is familiar to most of us, Cinderella.  Review the basic storyline.

  3. Divide students into six groups.  Assign each group one of the following roles:
    1. Cinderella trying to convince her stepmother to let her go to the ball.
    2. The stepmother explaining to Cinderella why she can’t go to the ball.
    3. Cinderella talking to the Prince during their first dance at the ball.
    4. The Prince talking to Cinderella during their first dance at the ball.
    5. A reporter asking Cinderella questions about the night she met her Fairy Godmother.
    6. Cinderella telling a reporter details about the night she met her Fairy Godmother.
  1. Give each group member three to four slips of paper.  Instruct students to write one line of dialogue that they think their character might say in the role assigned.

  2. Now pair groups together (a and b, c and d, e and f), with each group selecting an actor for the role and the other group members working as scriptwriters.  The scriptwriters hand the actors one line at a time to read as the two actors exchange dialogue.  The scriptwriters should choose lines that make sense in reaction to what has been said, and they may add words or even entire lines to make the scene cohesive.  The actors must read exactly what is written on the slip of paper handed to them.  “Act” out each scene.

  3. Discuss how the three scenes were different.  Which conversation would work better in an expository piece?  In a narrative text?  Which was more persuasive?  This could lead to a discussion of conflict or character motivation.

  4. Repeat the same activity using characters from student research or interviews.  For instance if students have researched the Trail of Tears, they might write dialogue between Andrew Jackson and John Ross.  The actual dialogue would be imagined, but based on the information that students learned during their research.

Evaluation: Students’ final pieces of writing must include at least one instance of dialogue.  Depending on the nature of the writing, you might ask for the dialogue to include examples of conflict, cover specific information, or explain character motivation.


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