Monday, January 30, 2012


by Mary Quattlebaum

Have you ever read dialogue that feels rambling and flat?  (Ha, sometimes I’ve written such dialogue and then, of course, had to revise.)  To help students think more carefully about the point of and voices in a piece of dialogue, try this:

*Have students make up one big and one very small character (for example, seagull and tiny crab, child and ant, cat and mouse).  One wants something that the other has (for example, the gull might want to eat the crab; or the ant might want child’s cupcake crumb).  What do they say to one another?  How are their voices different?  (For example, the gull might be rude and the crab very polite.  Or the ant, though tiny, might be very bossy and the child apologetic.)  What happens and how does the dialogue end? 

*Once students have written and revised their dialogues or two-speaker poems, have them pair up with someone in class and speak/perform the part of their two characters.  Have fun!

Below is an example of a two-speaker or dialogue poem. In “Encounter,” a girl and firefly have an imaginary conversation about their different experiences of firefly being caught by girl and then released.


     Girl                                       Firefly
Quick leap,
turned wrist.
Bright dot
in my fist.

                                                  Night wide—
                                                  sharp snap!
                                                  I flicker
                                                  in a trap.

Gliding spark,
quiet flash:
go forth,
go fast.

                                                  Sudden window
                                                  opens high;
                                                  warm wind
                                                  whispers “fly.”

                    --by Mary Quattlebaum, Cricket magazine

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