Inferring Dialogue

Two of the things my students often struggle with are making inferences and using quotation marks. Students regularly confuse inferences with observations, telling me what they can see, rather than what they can guess. Then there is the issue of quotation mark use, which begins with a tendency to call them “double top commas” and goes on all the way to placing them after every word or not using them at all. In an effort to help students practice these skills a bit more, I came up with this fun activity, and today I’d like to share it with you (it’s a free download at the bottom). There are two versions, so hang in there with me as I explain the differences between them.

The Basic Idea

In both versions, students practice making inferences by looking at pictures of people talking. Designed in PowerPoint, each slide has a photo of two or more people conversing. The students look at the people and their surroundings before inferring what they people might be saying. Since it’s a photograph, it is impossible to observe what the people are saying, forcing students to move past telling me what they see to making a true inference. There are twenty pictures in all, fourteen have two speech bubbles each and the last six each have three bubbles.

Version One: Speech Bubbles

In the first version, each picture is as full screen as I could make it without distortion. I then added a speech bubble for each person. Students type the inferred dialogue into each speech bubble, creating a one frame cartoon, of sorts. There’s also a PDF version in which students can write the dialogue by hand, if computers are not available for their use. As I’ve said in the past, I prefer, whenever possible, to have students type their dialogues so they get practice typing, and build their typing stamina/speed, in preparation for standardized testing. Since speech bubbles do not require the use of quotation marks, this particular version practices only making inferences. It is version two that brings in the second skill.

Version Two: Writing Dialogue

This is the version I use with students who are ready to move beyond writing and punctuating simple sentences to using more advanced punctuation. In this version, the images are contained to the left two-thirds of the slide and a text box is provided on the last third. Students again type (or write, depending on which version you use) their inferred dialogue, but this time they must do so using quotation marks and phrases to identify who said what. This is also great practice of synonyms and other verbs to replace “said” in writing and speaking.

How I Use This Activity

No matter which version I decide to use, I typically follow the same pattern. We will do one or two pictures together as a class as an example. I’ll project it on the board, solicit suggestions, and then type the class’ chosen dialogue into the slide. Then, depending on the class, I’ll either have them complete the other pictures alone or, more often, with a partner. Students then present their dialogues to the class either via a glary walk (set the slides to advance automatically and put each presentation into present mode for digital projects) or by choosing the slide they think is their best and sharing it with the class (good speaking practice).

Use the Activity Yourself

You can create your own version of the activity (I found the pictures on Pixabay), but there’s no need. You can download my version for free from this post or, for a convenient one click download of all the PowerPoint and PDF files of both versions, from Teachers Pay Teachers. If you are thinking the digital version is the way to go but prefer Google, never fear! The file uploads well to Google Slides, so it’s an easy conversion for you. Without further commentary, here are the links for the files. Happy teaching, everyone!

Want to get all four versions of the activity in one convenient download? It’s free in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

If you are looking for more practice with the skills of making inferences or using quotation marks, check out these resources:

Wheel of Quotations

A free game! Simply click the picture.

Ambivalent Inferences

A free activity! Simply click the picture.

Inferences? For Sure!–post with more information

It Might Be!

A fun board game!

Inferring: It Might Be!–post with more information & another free activity download

Inference Picture Challenge

A whole class PowerPoint game!

A new whole class game made especially for students just getting started with making inferences.