a resource for teaching tone

Teaching my IB Diploma (and MYP5) students to deal with tone has always been challenging. Inexperienced readers have trouble with the concept generally, often mixing it up with mood, and even students who have an idea of what tone is struggle to find the vocabulary to describe the tone. I have used tone lists in the past, but few of my students have a varied enough vocabulary to have those be very useful. What I needed was a way for students to look at tone more holistically, not only being to identify the tone but also be able to use it in analysis. I wanted a system.

A source for my own understanding has been Writing with a Purpose by Joseph F. Trimmer, an excellent college-level writing guide. Trimmer breaks down tone into two aspects: the range of informative to affective, and the distance between the reader and writer. I like that idea of breaking down the tone into aspects, but I felt like it could be more comprehensive and more friendly to younger students.

So here's the document I developed (here's the g-doc):
I brainstormed those pairs, then tried them out on a series of texts that I might ask my students to analyze, including poems, articles and stories. It seemed to work quite well.

Then I went through a fairly comprehensive tone list I've had for a while, chose the words I thought most common and most likely to be understood and tried to place them under the right 'category.' I'm not claiming I did a great job on that, and if I had more time and better tools, I would show how some of those terms combine two categories.

I'll be trying it out with my grade 11s (IBD1) next week, and we'll see how it goes. But I would love some feedback or suggestions on it before I do so.


  1. I love this. Visual and injects a lot of vocabulary. Can't wait to hear how this works out with your students. I imagine there will be a lot of discussion once they get to the part about supporting their choices.

    PS: I realize I've been spelling self-deprecating wrong for quite a while.


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