Tone and mood

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We all want our students to be able to understand more of the store than just who the characters were and what happened in the story. Recognizing the author’s tone and the mood of the story are important pieces of going past the surface layer of the story. That’s why we start teaching the concepts in elementary school and keep going all the way through highschool. Because the concepts are so big and can be taught in so many ways and at so many levels, this article is going to break down the teaching strategies by approach. Please add more approaches and activities and what levels you think they are appropriate for.


What are tone and mood?

First though—what is tone and mood and how are they different?

Tone is how the author feels about what they are talking about. Mood is how the piece makes you feel.


Lenzi Hart, on Bright Hub, has uploaded a Tone and Mood Man graphic organizer that explains the difference between the two. The organizer is an outline of a man with a tone box in his head and a mood box by his heart—drawing a nice distinction between the two.


Teaching tone and mood through acting and gestures

  • Lisa, of Justread.wordpress, says that she introduces tone by having three students “act out” a sentence, each using a different tone. **“I just saw someone smash into Mrs. Huff’s car in the parking lot.”One student assumed an angry tone, another an amused tone, and the last an apathetic one. The class had to guess their tone.” [1] She then moves into text by telling the students that they can use the words of a text as clues to figure out how the author feels. She has then read Langston Hughes’s “A Dream Deferred” and student its tone.


  • Patricia Penrose on NCTEAmericancollection has created a three part lesson plan on Author’s Purpose and Tone of Voice. It begins by having students role play different emotions. In the debrief, students discuss how they knew what emotion it was—getting at tone of voice and tone. Then students generate lists of words that describe tone of voice and tone and write sentences that get at each tone without using the word. The lesson plan is well written and far more clear than this synopsis!



Teaching tone and mood through music

  • Edsperience ED Mood and Tone Music is a one minute fifty second overview of a lesson using music to teach tone and mood. Here is the synopsis:
    • The students listen to snippets of four songs with different moods and tones. As they listen they draw brief illustrations of each.
    • After listening they discuss what the mood was. When they are done, they discuss how the author created the mood—what the tone was. They look at lyrics, instruments and tempo.
    • Finally, they link those tools back to literary passages.


  • Mr.Wehr’s Lesson on Mood and Tone with Poetry, Music and Film starts by introducing tone and mood in poems. The second part involves listening to a variety of different film music clips. Students have to answer the following questions on the music:
    • ” What do you think is happening in the score? (Remember: every score is applied to an event in a film—a fast-paced score will likely go with an adventures or action-filled scene; you have to be imaginative here).
    • What were you doing while trying to understand the score?
    • What is the mood & tone? Refer to specific instruments, rhythm, and other elements of sound to explain your response.
    • What do you feel the score conveys that the musician fears in our world?” [2]


Teaching tone and mood through video clips

  • Tod Christian has come up with a brilliant lesson plan for teaching author’s tone. He states that students often struggle with understanding the difference between an author’s tone and the type of story that they are reading (the author’s tone is sad in a sad story, etc). To help them get the difference, he shows them the original trailers from the Shining and Sleepless in Seattle. Then, he shows them the remixes of the trailers—Sleepless in Seattle becomes a horror and the Shining a family film. The only that has changed is the tone—not the content. It’s a great lesson for middle school and above!


All of these clips are also available on SchoolTube.com if your district has YouTube blocked!


Teaching tone and mood through art

  • F.J. Kaplan on LessonPlansPage has created a highschool level lesson plan that combines pictures and music to have students recognize the tone in pictures and the mood in music. In addition to recognizing mood and tone, the students have to create their own slide show with a specific tone and music. PhotoStory 3 or iMovie is required.



  • Schooltube’s Tone and Mood in Forrest Gump starts with a minute of showing different paintings and asking about the tone in each. The trailers don’t make the mood point as effectively as some of the others mentioned here, but the painting part is excellent.

Teaching tone and mood through questions

  • Heather Walsh on eHow has written an article How to Identify an Writer’s Tone that has guiding questions to help students recognize tone. Her tips include:
    • ”Look at word choice…Pay attention to the connotations of words.
    • Analyze the phrasing used to describe events. Is the author sarcastic? Do they use many metaphors, or lay out facts without opinion?
    • Ask yourself how the information is presented. What order do you receive information in? How is the author trying to persuade you, if they are?
    • Read the latent text. What information is not present? What has been ignored or omitted? This will tell you the author's intention and help to clue you into tone.
    • Consider how you feel when reading. What emotions come naturally to you? Do you get angry, sad or joyous? Do you feel that the author's trying to persuade you?” [3]


  • Ed 101 Tone vs. Mood has a series of questions to help students determine the tone and mood in the Golden Compass. The questions are pretty general however. Here is a sampling:
    • ”Questions to think about: Tone
      • How does the author feel about what he or she is writing?
      • What clues do I have that he or she may feel this way?
      • Did I infer the author feels this way with concrete evidence, or did he or she specifically write about how they felt?
    • Questions to think about: Mood
      • How does this passage make you feel? Scared, nervous, angry, relieved, etc?
      • How does language in… story create a mood?
      • How did the author make me feel this way? What devices did he or she use that made me feel this way while reading?” [4]


Word lists to help identify tone and mood

  • Pflugervilleisd.net Grade 6 Tone and Mood is a seven page document including handouts on the difference between tone and mood and charts of feeling words with directions on how to link those to tone and mood. Students need to have a good vocabulary to grasp the handouts!


  • Algebra Lab Author’s Purpose is a chart of three different types of writing (non-fiction, persuasive, fiction) with possible authors’ purposes and tones for each.


tone and mood. Words are pretty high level like acerbic and blithe but there are easier words on the lists as well.


Graphic organizers for tone and mood

  • Robert Sweetland’s Story Element Tone Frame has statements like; “In the beginning the author made me feel…. The author used writing like this to cause these feelings” on the left and blank spaces to write on the right.


Teaching tone and mood through writing

  • Trent Lorcher on Bright Hub recommends introducing tone through writing in his lesson on Using Tone Effectively. He introduces tone through a definition and a couple of examples and then immediately gets students writing. He breaks them into groups and assigns each group a tone word. They then have to write a sentence about a dog walking in the park that matches that tone. When the students are done, they discuss how they conveyed that tone, which leads to a broader discussion on how authors convey tone.


Teaching tone and mood through poetry



Teaching tone and mood through literature

Teaching tone and mood in non-fiction

  • BBC Schools' Bitesize Tone in Non-fiction Text article goes over clues for identifying tone in a non-fiction piece and then provides and an examples of a Red Cross Ad. The article has students look at the ad and then discusses the tone in it.


Classroom activities

Cyber games and activities

iPad apps

Free worksheets

  • Tone and Mood is a two page (the first page explains tone and mood) worksheet for upper middle school to high school students.


  • Mrs. Dunstan has a 15 question, 5 page worksheet on tone and mood for 8th grade that has students read passages and identify the tone or mood that has been set.


  • BetterLesson has a lesson plan that includes 5 pages of homework/worksheet type activities on tone and mood.


  • Ave Maria has a long, downloadable book. Lesson 8 is Mood and lesson 13 Tone. Both have short passages for students to read and questions for them to answer about the tone and mood of the story.

Videos

Tone video.JPG
| Tone and Mood Words Video is a short video that shows a variety of tone and mood words with sound effects.
Tone 2.JPG
| Mrs.Swanson's class has five different videos about tone and mood, including one explaining what they mean, one on tone and mood words, and two that are ideal for having students practice using tone and mood words.

At home

Helpful links

  • PPS K12 Teach Tone Teens is a 36 page unit plan on tone for 9th grade. It includes great activities through introducing the concept through music and art as well as literature.


Product reviews

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