Tone might be one of the hardest concepts to explain to students. Some understand tone immediately. These are not the students to worry about. Our job as teachers is to help those who do not innately understand how to analyze literature. Working out how to understand tone in the classroom can help students understand it better when reading at home. Working it out at school can allow them to feel more confident while reading and analyzing on their own. Here are three ways to work on analyzing tone in the classroom:
1. Use a word list
Words that express a happy connotation or a sad connotation are simple enough for the students to recognize. Once they can identify these kinds of words, discussing more complex tones like sarcasm, bitterness, or even apathy will be easier to tackle in the classroom. Use this list of keywords to ensure that the students understand the importance of word choice and sentence structure. Providing them with a list of essential words that they can look for while reading any novel or short story will get them used to looking for the words in general and will help their skills in identifying different tones
2. Read out loud
You can do this with the actual novel you are reading, or you can also use other short story examples. Short stories no more than a few pages will have a tone that you can easily discuss in class. Children’s stories are also an excellent example to use in the classroom because they often will have a simple, easy to identify tone. Again, these stories can be read out loud to give the students a better sense of the tone of the story.
3. Act it out
There is a reason we always read Shakespeare out loud: so the students can understand how the characters are interacting and how their moods change during the scene. The same concept applies to analyzing tone in literature: novels, short stories, and plays alike. By having the students act out the scene, they can get a much more well-rounded feeling of the tone as a whole. This takes the “reading out loud” argument to another level. By utilizing this method of teaching, you can bring the literature to life and help the students see the work as something worth considering in a broader context.
The main point is just getting enough practice to make the students feel comfortable with identifying tone. Any of these methods will get them into the habit of looking for and understanding the tone of any piece of literature you want them to work with.
Resources for Teaching Literary Analysis: