Tone is a tough topic to teach. Students often understand spoken tone much easier than written tone, so it’s good to begin where strengths likely lie. This mini-lesson came to me while I was watching TV. The entire lesson branches from a State Farm commercial. It’s amazing where we find inspiration.
Since tone is the writer’s attitude toward a subject, give students one topic that they must write about from different points of view. As an introduction, consider having students write about Humpty Dumpty falling off of the wall from the perspective of his mother, the king’s men, his best friend, and even the wall. They will all have different attitudes about Humpty’s decision to sit on the wall and then his subsequent fall from that wall.
As an introduction to tone, use a video that helps demonstrate tone, particularly because tone is easier to identify in spoken language than written language. I like this State Farm commercial.
As an assessment, consider taking the text that you’re reading, determine from whose point of view it is written, what points of views are not represented, and then putting students in groups to write from those points of view. This activity would work well with an AP or SAT passage (to help students analyze excerpts) or even the novel that you are currently reading in class.
For scaffolding purposes and better writing from students, have students come up with different words that they might choose to incorporate based on the subject and the attitude. Put these words in a chart like this one.
If you need a handy reference image for students, feel free to use this one that I made using Canva (find a review of it here).
- Explanation of Tone
- List of tone words with definitions
- Video with examples of tone vs. mood
- Tone Worksheets (goes as far as grade 9 — connected to Common Core)
- Entire Pinterest Board on Tone vs. Mood
Questions or suggestions about other tools to use? Sound off in the comments or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, I’d love to hear from you.