Tone, Mood, and Diction
Step 1: Teach annotations. I gave them very specific guidelines for how I’d like their stories annotated.
Step 2: Have students read/annotate “The Tell Tale Heart.”
Step 3: Diction competition! I put chart paper around the room with headers like “creepy,” “eerie,” “scary,” etc. While students were working on a warm up, I handed out cards with matching headers to form their teams (team gruesome! team creepy!). Then I introduced the competition: I gave the teams 8 categories (most of which matched up directly with their annotation homework) and they had two minutes to complete each task (I timed each and revealed the next category after the previous one was completed). Categories were things like “diction” in which students had to record as many diction words as they could find or “phrases/sentences” in which they wrote down key phrases supporting the mood/tone (switching colors after each category). I also asked for direct quotations answering certain questions like “Why did the narrator feel the need to kill the old man?” and “why did it take him 8 days?” which is perfect for setting them up for evidence in their first analysis essay. I also asked them to draw a picture to symbolize the story in its entirety because I am seriously obsessed with student artwork :)
Step 4: The next day I had students carousel around the room for 3 minutes writing down as many different diction words as they possibly could. We then compiled a list of all of the diction words in TTH. Competing with my other periods, each class obsessed over finding every single solitary one. They were working together and cheering for one another after each new word came up and they were SO into watching the whiteboard fill up with creepy words.
I really loved this activity for a few reasons. 1) these guys get diction, mood, and tone like whoa. 2) the competition was amazing and endearing and students absolutely embraced it. 3) students who didn’t do the homework didn’t need to be reprimanded by me at all at all—their groups did it for them. It was nice to have the pressure taken off a bit :)
Also, never ever underestimate the power of competition. Goodness gracious.