Emily Scherer, MSDE Admin, Kathleen Maher-Baker
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
Diction, MSDE, MSDE ELA, Maryland State Department of Education
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0

Education Standards (21)

Grade 9 Author's Craft: Character, Diction, and Structure Lesson Plan #2 (MDK12 Remix)

Grade 9 Author's Craft: Character, Diction, and Structure Lesson Plan #2 (MDK12 Remix)


In this lesson students will read and analyze “The Flowers” by Alice Walker. Lesson 2 from the Author’s Craft unit focuses on diction.  Students will examine how Walker’s word choice creates tonal shifts in the story that support the theme. The lesson requires student to collect evidence, discuss, and complete a writing assignment in which they continue the story while using diction to maintain the tone.


Image source:  "Rose" by Kapa65 on

Warm Up

For their warm up, students will explore the connotations of words by plotting synonyms on a chart. Students can complete this on paper, or the have the option of using a web tool like Padlet in order to work collaboratively with a partner.

  1. Teachers may wish to start by placing words in a chart as a whole class.  Create a graph on the board with informal→ formal on the X axis and negative → positive on the Y axis.

  2. Post a list of synonyms for students to practice placing on the board. For instance, you could plot synonyms for the word “busy” such as: active, employed, occupied, persevering, harried, slaving, swamped, unavailable, engaged, and working. Students can discuss how each word should be placed in terms of it level of formality and positivity.

  3. Students may also suggest additional words to add to the chart, particularly slang words that they use conversationally.

  4. Wrap up the discussion by having students consider how their choice of words changes the tone of what they say or write.

  5. Then, have students work with a partner or small groups to try brainstorming synonyms on their own.  Some good base words are: “money,” “friend,” “student,” “skinny,” and “talkative.” Students could pick their own word, or the teacher could assign words randomly to different groups.


Four quadrant chart with Informal to Formal on the X axis and Positive to Negative on the Y axis

For the warm up, you will be charting the connotations of words using a chart like the one above. You can create your own chart on paper, or you can make a copy of this padlet and use it to complete the following activity.  Work with your parnter or group to come up with as many synonyms as possible for your assigned word and place them on the chart where you think they belong. In the model above, "cash" has been placed in the chart as a synonym for money. Its placement reflects that it is a relatively informal term with a mostly neutral connotation.

Read the text for meaning.

Have students read the text the first time for meaning. The story is quite short, so teachers may wish to read it aloud to their students. The story can be found in anthologies or online for classroom use.  Check for plot comprehension before proceeding and make sure students note the shift in tone that takes place in paragraph 5.

Forest in the daylight with a mossy path

Image source: "Forest" by JerzyGorecki on

Today you will read and analyze the story "The Flowers" by Alice Walker. When you finish reading, check your comprehension by answering the following questions.

  1. How would you describe Myop and the setting in the beginning of the story?
  2. How does the setting change in paragraph 5?
  3. What does Myop step on?
  4. How does Myop's behavior change at the end of the story?

Examine Diction and Tone

In this task, students will analyze word choice by selecting key words from each paragraph and considering their connotations.  A graphic organzier is provided that students can use to select words from each paragraph and consider the tone they create. The objective of this task is for students to be able to identify how the shift in tone from positive to negative is created by the words in the story.

As a discussion wrap up, ask students how the shift in tone informs the theme of the story.  You may also wish to discuss the name "Myop" and what it implies about the character.

Using the graphic organizer, reread the story and identify key words that help create tone.  Consult this list of tone words for help filling out the graphic organizer.

When you finish, discuss the following question: What does the shift in tone suggest about the impact of the expierence on Myop?


In preparation for writing a continuation of Myop's story that maintains the tone established at the end of the original, students should complete a diction brainstorm. They will identify subjects to describe that will appear in their continuation and brainstorm words with the appropriate connotation to use while writing. This document will function as a word bank for students to use while they are writing.

Alternatively, teachers may choose to use this document as part of the revision process. Students could identify words from their continuation, brainstorm descriptors, and then add them to their draft.

Multiple index cards with the word "ideas" written on them laying on a table

Image source: "Brainstorm" by andrewlloydgordon on

On a piece of paper or in a document, continue the narrative by describing Myop's walk home. Pay careful attention to diction as you try to maintain the tone established at the end of the story.  


As an assessment for this lesson, students will continue the story by describing Myop's walk home after laying down her flowers. Students will need to pay careful attention to diction in order to continue the tone and make the theme clearer.

Teachers may determine the length of the writing assignment. Alternatively, teachers may ask students to create their own story with a tonal shift instead. 

Open notebook and pen on a wooden desk.

Image source: "Journal" by 6689062 on

On a piece of paper or in a document, continue the narrative by describing Myop's walk home. Pay careful attention to diction as you try to maintain the tone established at the end of the story.