Tone and Mood Activities for Middle School

Instructor: Shanna Fox

Shanna has been an educator for 20 years and earned her Master of Education degree in 2017. She enjoys using her experience to provide engaging resources for other teachers.

Tone and mood can be challenging concepts to teach your middle school-age students. Use these engaging activities to help them identify and apply varying tones and moods to listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

Tone and Mood Activities for Middle School

Teaching tone and mood to middle school-age students can be tricky, as they may have difficulty differentiating between the concepts, finding them in literature, or using them intentionally in their own writing. Use these engaging activities to help your middle school students practice identifying tone and mood in music, applying subtle differences in speaking, and matching poems to various tones and moods.

Each activity asks students to differentiate between and identify both the tone and mood. Therefore, a clear understanding of the concepts is necessary before engaging in the activities. Tone is addressed as the author's attitude toward the subject and is informed by the language used and details included. A focusing question may be, ''how does the author feel about X?'' Mood is addressed as the emotions evoked from the reader by the author's use of language, humor, or description. A focusing question may be, ''how does this piece make you feel?''

These activities are designed to be used with teams of students but can be slightly altered for application with individual students, as well.

Song Sound Off

  • Materials: several songs with a variety of tones and moods with lyrics, a list of tone and mood descriptors, a chart with columns for song title, tone, mood, and lyrical examples

In this activity, students will listen to a variety of songs and identify the tone and mood indicated by the music and lyrics. Begin by providing an example song and engage the whole group in brainstorming words that describe the tone and mood. Discuss and provide additional examples, if needed. Provide students with a list of tone and mood descriptors and allow them to ask for clarification of any unfamiliar vocabulary. Provide a chart with four columns: song title, tone, mood, and lyrical examples of each.

Play the first song for students. Provide time for them to reflect on the song's overall tone and select descriptor(s) that apply. If applicable for your group, allow students to discuss their choices with partners or teams before proceeding. Once they have established the tone, provide students with the lyrics to the song. Instruct them to find lyrical examples that support their selected tone. Encourage them to make changes to their selection if further analysis gives them a different impression.

Play the song again, asking students to focus on the mood evoked by it. Ask them to identify descriptor(s) and use lyrical examples along with an explanation about how they felt and why. Provide time for them to complete their charts accordingly. Consider allowing students to compare their responses to those of partners or teammates. Debrief as a whole group before moving onto the next song.

Phrase Change Skits

  • Materials: a list of phrases that can be interpreted differently based on tone, a list of tone descriptors, modeling example phrases to show how intonation and body language change tone, a chart for audience to track various tones exemplified in skits, a brainstormed list of mood options

In this activity, students will demonstrate how tone can change the meaning of phrases based on intonation and body language. Give an example of a single phrase that can be interpreted differently based on tone. For example, ''let's get going!'' can be said in an excited tone, an angry tone, or an exhausted tone.

Place students into teams and provide them with a list of phrases that are open to interpretation based on intonation and body language. Provide teams with a list of tone descriptors. Have teams design a skit using their selected phrase multiple times in with different tones. Before skits are performed, provide all students with a chart to track the various tones shown in the skit. Debrief after each skit to discuss their conclusions.

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