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Teach Your Students to Write Dialogue Tags with Sensory Details

written by: Margo Dill • edited by: Trent Lorcher • updated: 1/17/2012

Sensory details are important when students are writing stories. They help set a scene and bring the reader into the story world. Sensory details should fit naturally into the story and touch on all five senses. One easy way to fit in sensory details is through dialogue tags.

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    Introduction and Modeling

    Once you have taught students what sensory details are and how to work them into their writing descriptions in other writing lesson plans, now it is time to take students to the next step. When first learning about writing sensory details, one problem students often have is lumping their details in one section, usually at the beginning of their stories. In this writing lesson plan, you will model for students how to include sensory details in dialogue tags. This technique is helpful for students because it teaches them to spread the sensory details throughout their stories and not bog the reader down with overwhelming descriptions.

    Modeling a conversation between two characters and adding dialogue tags full of sensory details is the best way to show students this technique. Then allow them to help you add more details once you have given them two or three examples. On a SmartBoard or overhead projector, you can write a conversation such as:

    • Betty took a huge bite out of her hamburger before she said anything else to John. When she finally did speak, John could smell the onions from her burger.
    • "I don't think you're being fair." Betty set down her hamburger and wiped sweat off her forehead with a napkin. She hated eating outside at the zoo. "We've spent all morning looking at the reptiles. I want to go to the monkeys next."
    • "But there's a snake show at 1:00. We have to go!" John took a sip of his lemonade and watched his sister carefully.

    Once you show students a conversation such as the one above, you can ask them to find the sensory details in the dialogue tags. You can also include a few more lines of dialogue with no tags and ask students to help you write details around the conversation.

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    Student Practice

    The next step in this writing lesson plan is to give students a chance to practice. You can do this two different ways. You can ask students to write a conversation for two characters in a story they are currently working on and try to include at least three sensory details throughout the conversation. This method will probably work for students in fifth grade or older.

    For younger elementary-aged students, it might work better if you give them a conversation between two characters with no dialogue tags. Then lead them through the exercise. Ask them to pick a setting that will work with the conversation, and they can add dialogue tags full of sensory details to the conversation. In this writing practice, they are concentrating on only one skill -- the details -- instead of worrying about the dialogue, too. You know your students, so pick the method that you think will provide the best practice for them.

Writing Description With Sensory Details

For young writers, sensory details are often hard to include when writing description. Some students may not even be familiar with the term--sensory details. First, we need to show students these details in real literature, and then teach them to write with sensory details.
  1. Writing Lesson Plan: Learning about Sensory Details
  2. A Lesson Plan on Using Sensory Details when Writing Description
  3. Teach Your Students to Write Dialogue Tags with Sensory Details

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