Teaching…Mood and tone through differentiated learning

The Situation

You are introducing mood and tone to your audience.

The Solution

Mood and tone are offered blurred in the classroom. Confusingly, we use the same terminology to describe both. But as students work towards senior school, it is essential that they understand the difference and know how to identify it within any text that is provided.

Below, I have outlined a strategy to introduce mood and tone through scaffolded instruction and how to apply this to a short text.

  1. Inform students that the main focus of their learning for today’s lesson is to understand how mood and tone are used to position the reader. Ask students to record this into their workbook.

2. Introduce central concepts to students. They will need to record these into their book. A key distinction between Tone and Mood is that tone is centred on what the author feels, while mood is centred on what the reader feels. One way to remember the difference is by connecting tone with voice and mood with atmosphere. Student can know the difference by some simple simple prompting. Checkout these example (tweak for the text you are studying).

  • Does the author seem frustrated?
  • How do you feel when you read the opening paragraph? Are you concerned for the narrator?
  • How does the way the author feel change through the text?

Present students with ways that they can express the tone and mood of the text. Remember, this could be positive or negative. For example, the tone of the author can be cheerful or the mood of the story can be melancholic.

There are may tools online that you can use to present to students:


3. Have students practise using their new terminology focusing on a distinct text. The opening chapter to Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events offers a distinct narrative voice. Have students read a paragraph from the chapter and using their new list above to explain the mood and tone.

4. Students are now ready to the central text of their study. I have chosen to focus on Alice Walker’s haunting short story, The Flowers. Initially, I have students read the opening paragraph and analyse the mood of the text. They highlight key phrases that have helped them draw this conclusion. Students might choose to focus on the notion of childhood and the use of the word “skipping” and “beautiful” to create a thread of positivity and colour in the text.

5. Afterwards, students read the remainder of the text and consider how the story changes. They explain at what point in the story that the mood changes. Again, there is a focus on annotating of the text.

Lesson summary: students have been introduced to mood and tone and have practised on a short text that they are not studying in class. They are introduced to vocabulary that will help them achieve the task. Furthermore, they are given the chance to connect this vocabulary to the text they are studying.

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