Writing Dialogue Part 1

I am here to share with you a fun unit we just finished up, adding and editing dialogue in our writing.

I have some extremely creative writers this year, which is a teacher’s dream come true! We all know that writing can be such a scary thing to teach sometimes because of how open-ended it is and because all of our students come to us with such varied prior knowledge and experiences with writing.

We started our dialogue unit by looking at our own writing and realizing that we needed to put said to bed. This means that students needed some help not only punctuating their dialogue, but also varying their dialogue tags. In the past, I have done lessons on said is dead, but this year, we talked about the importance of not actually killing said. The word said is important and should be used in student’s writing. Without it, their dialogue tags may make their writing a bit too wordy, so it is perfectly acceptable to use it every so often.

To begin the unit, we created this anchor chart together as a class. We flipped through some picture books that had dialogue and thought about why authors put dialogue in stories.

We then read the book, Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss together as a class, and every time my students heard a synonym for said, they gave me a thumbs up.

**Here are more picture book ideas that I have used in the past to teach this unit.

After reading Yertle the Turtle, we then created a class thesaurus full of words that are synonyms for said. Students used the dialogue tags from Yertle the Turtle, and I also asked them to stretch their thinking to other stories they have either read or written in the past. Below is the list they came up with:

My students wanted to keep going with their synonyms, but I had to cut them off at some point!

Students were to then go back to their own writing and edit the dialogue tags to put said to bed.

While conferencing with some students, I noticed this quick doodle in one of my student’s notebooks. Ha!

At least he was paying attention to the lesson, right?!
On the next day, we looked through more picture books and chapter books to come up with the rules that writers use to punctuate and edit dialogue. You can read more about that lesson in part 2 HERE.


  1. All of your lessons are so great! Very inspiring for a first year teacher like me just learning workshop method! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I agree with Amanda! I am a new teacher who started about 8 weeks into the year. I need as much help as I can get and you have fabulous lessons. Thank you for sharing!!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing the great ideas. I have 27 years of teaching experience, but every time there is something new to learn and share. Living in La Paz, Bolivia makes it harder to attend workshops, but thanks to wonderful teachers like you, who share their knowledge and experience, the world is smaller and we all become part of a community of learners. Thanks!!!

  4. Thank you so much for your sweet comments, Julia! Wow! Bolivia? I am so honored to know that my teaching ideas are helping other students and teachers in other countries. Thanks for stopping by!

    1. Kristine Nannini says:

      Thanks for your kind comments, Zoe!

  5. I love this. I\’m going to use this in my class. Will share the results later.

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