The subtitle of this post should be: “The day I realized I sometimes teach writing differently than my fellow teachers.” Because after the moment described below, I started to notice my strategies and think through how to smooth the connections between the fiction students were doing with me and their general classroom writing.
I was so excited to begin working with a group of 6th grade writers. We’d had several good writing sessions together, getting into tropes and the fun of genre fiction. And then I casually mentioned dialogue and dialogue tags, the most common being, “said.” A super nice kid looked me straight in the face and uttered the haunting words, “But our teacher told us said is dead.” I shouldn’t have been shocked. I know about the “word graveyards” some teachers post. But ‘said’? So I showed the students an excellent short video that explains why ‘said’ is useful, along with other helpful dialogue tips and also gave them links to additional articles about why said is better than ‘growled’ or ‘screeched’ or ‘whined’ , etc. The students weren’t the ones I needed to convince though. It was the teachers…who were kind and receptive to the idea that professional writers approach writing dialogue differently. And, thankfully, they were willing to work with me.