Tone. Not what you say, but how you say it. Yes, words have power, but approach determines response. Tone, attitude, matters. To some degree, my kids know this intuitively. True. I point it out to them. I ask them to think about their interactions with their parents. “How many of you know by now what tone to take when you want something from your parents?” Not a hand unraised in the room. “How many of you know what tone will lead to a quick dead end?” Same results. Indeed, words have power–can have power, if people will listen. Tone plays a critical role in communication.
Presently, the kids are working through their injustice speeches, where tone is a key consideration. Tone considers audience. Tone considers purpose. And though my kids indeed have some natural and experiential understanding of tone’s power, there remains much to learn. So, to help them practice tone, I came up with an activity to help them convey a desired tone. Seeking to make it engaging and relevant, I turned to tweets and hashtags. One, this form of communication saturates the kids’ days. Two, it presents a challenge as both are compact forms of writing.
I gave them three topics: @lunch, @hallways, and @homework. For each, they had to write a tweet and a hashtag. They “published” on printer paper, writing the desired tone on the back. Then, in various ways, readers had to guess the intended tone. Writing presents a unique challenge when conveying tone, for words are the only vehicle, unlike speaking where we have the benefit of intonation and gestures. To point this out, I ask the kids if they have ever mistaken someone’s tone in a text, or if someone had ever mistaken their tone. Again, all hands up. Thus, this points to how relevant tone is to kids’ lives in the real world. This is more than a school lesson; it is a life lesson as well.
In the end, it was a fun activity. The kids came up with many clever, funny tweets and hashtags. We laughed and laughed. Of course, the real test will be how well they apply this to their speeches. But, too, the test may come in more important aspects of their lives. Maybe they will be more thoughtful with their tone when texting their boyfriends or girlfriends. Maybe they will be more careful with their tone when communicating with their parents. I am thinking about using this same lesson at home with my thirteen year old. He has discovered and is experimenting with all sorts of new tones, many of which are not getting the results he desires. Ah, the teenage years. #wenevertookthattonewithourparents #selectiveamnesia #adultsalwaysconveytherighttone
Happy Friday, all. Have a great weekend.