Revising Narrative Texts: Dialogue | EL Education Curriculum

You are here:

These are the CCS Standards addressed in this lesson:

  • W.4.3: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.
  • W.4.3b: Use dialogue and description to develop experiences and events or show the responses of characters to situations.
  • W.4.5: With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, and editing.
  • L.4.2: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
  • L.4.2b: Use commas and quotation marks to mark direct speech and quotations from a text.

Daily Learning Targets

  • I can revise my narrative to add dialogue to help the reader understand what the characters are thinking and feeling. (W.4.3b, W.4.5, L.4.2b)
  • I can use commas and quotation marks correctly to show dialogue. (L.4.2b)

Ongoing Assessment

  • Choose-your-own-adventure narrative (annotated first draft) (W.4.3b, W.4.5, L.4.2b)


AgendaTeaching Notes

1. Opening

A. Reviewing Learning Targets (5 minutes)

2. Work Time

A. Guided Practice: Annotating Millipede Draft for Use of Dialogue (15 minutes)

B. Partner Work: Identifying Where to Add Dialogue to Narratives (10 minutes)

C. Independent Practice: Writing Dialogue (25 minutes)

3. Closing and Assessment

A. Exit Ticket (5 minutes)

4. Homework

A. Complete one of the dialogue practices from your homework resources for this unit.

B. Accountable Research Reading. Select a prompt to respond to in the front of your independent reading journal.

Purpose of lesson and alignment to standards: 

  • In this lesson, students record notes for their ideas for dialogue in Work Times A and B. In Work Times C and D, they add the dialogue using correct conventions (W.4.3b and L.4.2b). As in Lesson 9, students use colored pencils--this time a new color-- to make notes and revisions (W.4.5).
  • The research reading students complete for homework will help to build both their vocabulary and knowledge pertaining to animals and specifically animal defenses. By participating in this volume of reading over a span of time, students will develop a wide base of knowledge about the world and the words that help to describe and make sense of it.
  • If students finish quickly, set certain parameters based on previous extension work students may have done. For example, if students have created another character, they should ensure that the characters have a conversation.
  • In this lesson, the habit of character focus is working to become effective learners. They are reminded of the characteristic: take responsibility because of the self-assessing and correcting they do when revising their writing.

How it builds on previous work: 

  • This is the second in a sequence of three lessons focused on revising the choose-your-own-adventure narratives. In the previous lesson, students reviewed correct conventions for dialogue and discussed how authors use dialogue in narratives.
  • Continue to use Goals 1-3 Conversation Cues to promote productive and equitable conversation.

Areas where students may need additional support: 

  • Students may require additional instruction to successfully use quotation marks and commas when adding dialogue to their narratives. Consider using additional text examples and have students practice writing dialogue themselves.

Assessment Guidance: 

  • Consider a quick pre-assessment to gauge whether your students already know how to use quotation marks effectively. If so, consider accelerating Work Time C.
  • Consider using the Writing Informal Assessment: Writing and Language Skills Checklist (Grade 4) during students' writing in Work Times B and C.  See the Tools page.
  • Collect in response to Narrative QuickWrite homework (Lesson 8).

Down the road: 

  • Students will continue to revise their narratives for word choice, the order of adjectives, transitional words and phrases, and punctuation.

In Advance

  • Display the Writing Dialogue and Steps for Revising My Writing anchor charts. 
  • Post: Learning targets.

Tech and Multimedia

  • Work Times B and C: If students are creating their writing on a shared document such as a Google Doc, ask them to color code the dialogue they add in purple text or highlight the dialogue in purple.
  • Work Time C: Students complete their revisions in a word processing document, for example a Google Doc using Speech to Text facilities activated on devices, or using an app or software like
  • Closing and Assessment A: digital exit tickets: Students fill out a Google Form or record thinking on a class Google Doc or Google Spreadsheet. 
  • Closing and Assessment A: audio exit tickets: Students record their ideas in audio through free software or apps such as Audacity or GarageBand.

Supporting English Language Learners

Supports guided in part by CA ELD Standards 4.I.C.10, 4.I.C.11, 4.I.C.12

Important points in the lesson itself

  • The basic design of this lesson supports ELLs with opportunities to revise their narratives to add dialogue that shows actions, thoughts, and feelings. Many ELLs will enjoy this task and thrive because they can transfer their knowledge of informal English speaking into writing.
  • ELLs may find it challenging to decide where to add dialogue. See specific suggestions for support in this lesson.

Levels of support

For lighter support:

  • Before providing sentence frames or additional modeling, observe student interaction and allow students to grapple. Provide supportive frames and demonstrations only after students have grappled with the task. Observe the areas in which they struggle to target appropriate support.

For heavier support:

  • Provide students with a copy of one of the texts from this unit, such as "How the Monkey Got Food When He Was Hungry," and ask them to underline the dialogue, highlight the quotation marks, and circle the commas.
  • Using word processing software or Google Docs, copy the millipede narrative. Cut the dialogue and paste it out of sequence into a language bank at the bottom of the document. Invite students to replace the dialogue in the correct section of the narrative. To increase the challenge for students who need lighter support, remove all punctuation and have them write in the correct punctuation.

Universal Design for Learning

  • Multiple Means of Representation (MMR): In this lesson, spend extra time discussing how commas and quotation marks are used to show characters' thinking, as this is a more abstract idea than characters' speaking. Students may need support understanding how to use this convention to build narrative voice. Provide models from texts familiar to students. Be sure to discuss how to make these character thoughts authentic.
  • Multiple Means of Action & Expression (MMAE): Recall the importance of supporting self-monitoring and executive function skills. In this lesson, facilitate student management of information and resources by allowing students to identify unknown words and record them in their vocabulary log. 
  • Multiple Means of Engagement (MME): Throughout this unit, sustained engagement and effort is essential for student achievement. Some students may need support to remember the goal for the work they are doing during the unit. Recall that students who may struggle with sustained effort and concentration are supported when these reminders are built into the learning environment.


Key: (L): Lesson-Specific Vocabulary; (T): Text-Specific Vocabulary; (W): Vocabulary used in writing

  • dialogue, benefit (L)


  • Narrative Writing Checklist (from Lesson 3; one per student and one to display)
  • Writing Dialogue handout (from Lesson 9; one per student and one to display)
  • Practice Narrative Writing Sheet: The Millipede (completed, for teacher reference; from Lesson 7; one for display) 
  • Steps for Revising My Writing anchor chart (begun in Unit 2, Lesson 10)
  • Purple colored pencils (one per student)
  • Equity sticks
  • Millipede narrative draft (revised, for teacher reference) 
  • Choose-your-own-adventure narrative (first draft) (from Lesson 8; one per student)
  • Sticky notes (several per student)
  • Working to Become Effective Learners anchor chart (from Module 1)
  • Index cards (one per student)

Materials from Previous Lessons

New Materials


Each unit in the 3-5 Language Arts Curriculum has two standards-based assessments built in, one mid-unit assessment and one end of unit assessment. The module concludes with a performance task at the end of Unit 3 to synthesize their understanding of what they accomplished through supported, standards-based writing.


OpeningMeeting Students' Needs

A. Reviewing Learning Targets (5 minutes)

  • Post the learning targets:
    • "I can revise my narrative to add dialogue to help the reader understand what the characters are thinking and feeling."
    • "I can use commas and quotation marks correctly to show dialogue."
  • Invite students to take out their copies of the Narrative Writing Checklist and read aloud the following criterion:
    • "W.4.3b, L.4.6: I use dialogue and description to show what characters are doing, thinking, and feeling and how they respond to what happens."
  • Remind students that they already looked at this criterion when writing the introduction of their choose-your-own-adventure narratives in the first half of the unit. Review vocabulary from this criterion by asking students to discuss with an elbow partner:

"What is dialogue?" (characters talking--conversation between two or more people--or thinking)

  • Display and invite students to retrieve their . Ask:

"Are there any specific criteria about using dialogue in this narrative that you should be aware of that you want to add to the checklist to make it more precise?"

  • Listen for students to explain that this is clear enough as it is. If students suggest adding criteria about punctuation such as quotation marks and commas, explain that this point on the checklist is more about what dialogue does to help the reader understand the character, rather than correct punctuation. Point out the last criterion on the checklist and suggest that they add anything specific about dialogue punctuation there.
  • Remind students that they started exploring this in the previous lesson.
  • For students who may need additional support with written expression: Provide sentence starters in the Student Criteria column on the checklist. This will require reading their narratives in advance and writing on sticky notes, showing them where to put these on their narratives. (MMAE)
  • For ELLs: Invite students to make "air" commas and "air" quotation marks to show their understanding. (For a comma, use the pointer finger on one hand and swipe to make the curlicue shape in the air; for quotation marks, raise the pointer and middle finger of both hands in the air and bend them twice to symbolize quotation marks.)
  • For ELLs: Mini Language Dive. Highlight and discuss language structures that are critical to understanding the learning targets. Examples: that would benefit from added dialogue; revise my narrative. Work on comprehension of these structures, for example, by eliciting paraphrases of them.

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Guided Practice: Annotating Millipede Draft for Use of Dialogue (15 minutes)

  • Display and focus students on their Writing Dialogue handout and select students to read parts aloud to the whole group to review how and why authors use dialogue. Focus on the example and remind students of the appropriate way to punctuate dialogue using the guidelines recorded below the example.
  • Explain that today students will have a chance to decide where to include dialogue in their narratives.
  • Display the Practice Narrative Writing Sheet: The Millipede (completed, for teacher reference) and read it aloud as students read along silently in their heads. Tell students that now they have a good understanding of how authors use dialogue, and you would like them to help you plan for adding dialogue to the millipede narrative. Review the Steps for Revising My Writing anchor chart:

1. Choose the correct colored pencil. Today's color is _____.

2. Decide where you are going to add a revision note based on feedback or new learning.

3. Write your revision note in the space above the sentence you want to change. 

4. Read through your entire narrative and continue to record your revision notes.

5. Review your revision notes to be sure they make sense.

  • Tell students that today they will add revision notes using purple colored pencils. Tell them that first you will read them your draft so they can help you decide where dialogue might be used strategically. 
  • Read the draft aloud to students. Ask them to turn to a neighbor and share where they think dialogue could be added and why it should be added there. Use equity sticks to call on students to share their thinking.
  • After several students have shared their suggestions, demonstrate how you would annotate your paragraph using a purple colored pencil. 
  • Record asterisks in the spaces above sentences where dialogue could be added.
  • Go back through the writing and add sticky notes next to the asterisks with possible dialogue on them. Use student suggestions and see the millipede narrative draft (revised, for teacher reference) in the supporting materials for possible revisions. For example, above the sentence "Marty looked up nervously," you might put an asterisk and then add a sticky note with: "What was that?" he thought to himself. (As this lesson is printed in black and white, please be aware that the double underlined sections of the millipede narrative draft correspond to purple).
  • Ask students to point out which conventions you used when writing this dialogue. 
  • Point out that the dialogue you have written sounds authentic. Your character did not use any modern slang such as "Huh?" He also used language that showed he was alert because most animals pay close attention to their surroundings. Explain that as they write their dialogue today, they need to pay attention to the conventions and to scientific accuracy whenever they are adding to their writing.
  • For students who may need additional support with fluency: Invite students to read one of the points on the Writing Dialogue handout in advance so they can read it aloud successfully during class. (MMAE, MME)
  • For ELLs: Students may want to use the slang they hear from other students or people outside the classroom. Discuss which of this slang is appropriate for the narrative, if any, and why. Appropriateness is highly dependent on home culture, so your ELLs may need to hear yours and other students' perspective on what's appropriate for U.S. academic narratives.

B. Partner Work: Identifying Where to Add Dialogue to Narratives (10 minutes)

  • Have students take out their choose-your-own-adventure narrative (first draft). Partner them with a student from a different expert group and post the following directions:

1. Read your narrative to your partner. 

2. Partner listens for areas where dialogue might be added.

3. Partner shares suggestions based on the Writing Dialogue handout.

4. Switch roles and repeat.

5. Follow the Steps for Revising My Writing anchor chart to record revision notes for adding dialogue to your narrative.

  • Make it clear that, at the moment, they are not to write any dialogue. The first step is to identify where the dialogue will go. Encourage them to use the Writing Dialogue handout as a guide when deciding where to add dialogue to their drafts and for what purpose. Circulate and support students as needed in recording their ideas on their drafts.
  • For ELLs and students who need additional writing support: Consider having students act out the narrative to generate ideas about where to add dialogue. A role-play or quick puppet/popsicle stick show can also help them build confidence in the meaning and structure of the narrative. (MMAE, MME)
  • For ELLs: Consider partnering ELLs with students who speak the same home language or scheduling conferences with these students.

C. Independent Practice: Writing Dialogue (25 minutes)

  • Refocus the whole group. Tell students that now they are ready to write the dialogue they want to add to their narratives. They have reviewed the conventions for writing dialogue, and now they have identified with a partner the best places to add dialogue in their narratives. 
  • Focus students on the Working to Become Effective Learners anchor chart, specifically take responsibility. Remind students that as they revise, they will need to take responsibility for their writing by self-assessing their work and adding dialogue as they revise.
  • Distribute sticky notes and have students go back to their choose-your-own-adventure narrative (first draft). Remind them to follow the steps you modeled using their sticky notes. Remind them also to refer to their research to ensure their dialogue is based on that research, and to the Writing Dialogue handout to punctuate their dialogue correctly. 
  • Confer with students as they write.
  • Invite students to record 'Y' for 'Yes' and the date in the final column of their Narrative Writing Checklist if they feel the criteria marked on their checklists have been achieved in their writing in this lesson.
  • For students who may need additional support in planning for writing: Provide sentence starters in the Student Criteria column on the checklist. This will require reading their narratives in advance and writing things like: 
    • " ..." said (character's name). 


    • This made the gazelle think, " ..." 

on sticky notes and showing them where to put these on their narratives.

  • For ELLs: As students write, jot down samples of effective communication from ELLs. Also jot down one or two common language errors (pervasive, stigmatizing, critical). Share each of these with the class, allowing students to take pride in the effective communication and to correct the errors. (It's not necessary to identify who communicated well or who made errors. However, you might wish to pull the student aside to make it clear.) Students may wish to add these notes to their language error log.

Closing & Assessments

ClosingMeeting Students' Needs

A. Exit Ticket (5 minutes)

  • Gather students. Ask them to assess themselves and the class on the learning targets by reading the following learning target aloud: "I can revise my narrative to add dialogue to help the reader understand what the characters are thinking and feeling."
  • Distribute index cards. Then ask them to write their name and reflect and respond to the following:
    • Front: One piece of dialogue they added to their narratives.
    • Back: "How does this dialogue help the reader understand what the characters are thinking and feeling?"
  • Use a checking for understanding protocol (for example Red Light, Green Light or Thumb-O-Meter) for students to self-assess how well they took responsibility in this lesson.
  • For ELLs and students who may need writing support: Allow students to pair-share their ideas before writing responses on the index cards. (MMAE, MME)


HomeworkMeeting Students' Needs

A. Complete one of the dialogue practices from your homework resources for this unit.

B. Accountable Research Reading. Select a prompt to respond to in the front of your independent reading journal.

  • For ELLs: To facilitate success for ELLs who need heavier support in the dialogue practice, make sure students have a copy of the guidelines on the Writing Dialogue handout. Provide the correctly punctuated versions of some of the sentences on the homework in addition to the versions with errors. Students can identify and explain the corrections. Also, provide models for homework tasks in which students have to rewrite sentences from scratch.
  • For ELLs and students who may need additional support with reading and writing: Refer to the suggested homework support in Lesson 1. (MMAE, MMR)

Get updates about our new K-5 curriculum as new materials and tools debut.

Sign Up