Lesson Plan

Understanding Tone and Purpose In Complicated Texts

When students struggle with reading higher level or antiquated texts, they often miss the tone. This helps students read carefully and annotate to practice identifying tone.
Hattie M.
Classroom teacher
Novi High School
Novi, United States
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My Grades 9, 10, 11, 12
My Subjects English Language Arts

Students will be able to...

1. Annotate a complicated text paying special attention to diction and syntax that suggest the writer's intended tone and purpose.

2. Identify sections of the text where the writer is implicity suggesting his or her tone and purpose.


English Language Arts
Grades 9 – 12
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Hook

Activity: Exploring

Begin the lesson by sharing the lyrics of a song with which your students are familiar. I use different songs each year.  Read the lyrics aloud and discuss the tone of the song with the student. What is the tone? Sad? Angry? Happy? Romantic? Melancholy? Which words show you that explicitly? Implicitly? 

This will likely be an easy exercise for the students because they recognize the purpose and tone of a song quite easily. However, I point out to them that the  excerise of looking for proof of the tone in the lyrics--specific words, phrasing, etc-- is the same strategy they need to apply to complicated texts. 

2 Direct Instruction

Google Drive
Free, Paid

For this particular lesson, I am beginning Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas with my students; however, any antiquated or complicated text could be used. 

Upload a short selection (no more than 1-2 paragraphs) to Google Drive and share it with the students.  Have the students view the text along with you as you read.  Use the highlighting and comment functions to annotate as you read. Walk students through the process of identifying key words and phrases that hint at the author's tone and purpose.  For example, in Narrative,  Douglas employs a clincial, detached tone yet his diction reveals his true disgust and anger about slavery. 

3 Guided Practice

Many students are not quite ready at this point to tackle the text on their own, so I often make a guided reading movie using the app Explain Everything.  I upload another section of the text to Explain Everything and then I can record myself reading, annotating and discussing the text.  I assign this as homework for students who feel they need additional guidance and practice. Students who are ready to go on their own may skip this step and move directly to the independent practice.

4 Independent Practice

The final step for the students is annotating on their own and answering some multiple choice and short answer questions about a text.  For my assignment, I assign the second chapter of  Narrative using the website Curriculet.  Curriculet has many texts pre-loaded, but you can upload any text you choose.  The students read and annotate online and answer several questions at the end of the text.  Some of the texts have pre-loaded questions; you are free to use those as they are, edit them, or completely create your own.  Students submit their work electronically and I have an easy way to track who is "getting it" and who needs more guided practice.