Teaching Mood and Tone to ELLs

Teaching Mood and Tone to ELLs

mood and tone

Mood and tone are closely connected concepts. Tone is the author’s attitude towards the topic. Mood is the overall feeling the reader gets when they are reading the text. Mood is particularly subjective. The important part is that students are able to defend their reasoning with evidence.  Here are some ideas for teaching these topics to your ELLs.

Review Feelings

A quick review of feelings is a great way to begin a unit on mood or tone. This can help all students expand their vocabulary past happy and sad. For ELLs, using visuals and examples will help them to understand the feelings being discussed.

One activity is to give groups of students a list of feeling words. Give the students small sticky notes. Have them come up with synonyms for the words. Then have the students group the words by those that are similar.

Use Visuals

Photographs and picture books are two ways to introduce mood. Even if all students are not reading on the same level, they can all participate in this activity. Emphasize that when students are describing the mood of a picture, they need to tell why. This will give them practice looking in a text for evidence. In a picture book, students can take sticky notes and mark what moods they are feeling as they read the book. This will also help them to notice that the mood of a story can change.

mood task cards

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One picture book to use to help students practice identifying mood is Amazing Faces by Lee Bennett Hopkins. This is a collection of short poems. Each poem showcases a different emotion.

Big Feelings shows how a group of children have different feelings throughout the day and how they navigate challenging situations and difficult feelings.

Change the Emotion

One way to help students understand that different people can have different feelings or emotions about the same topic is to give examples (or have students come up with examples) of having different feeling about the same topic. Here is a short writing activity where students write two passages about the same topic, showing different emotions.

  • Write about a day off from school with a excited tone. Write about a day off from school with a serious tone.
  • Write about the first day of school with an excited tone. Write about the first day of school with a nervous tone.
  • Write about a bus ride with a silly tone. Write about a bus ride with a uncertion tone.

Another idea is a game called Guess that Emotion. Take a list of emotions (include pictures to support ELLs). Cut them apart into cards. One player chooses an emotion and has to act out or give examples of a time when a person might feel that way.

You can make the game easier by including a list of the emotions that students can pick from for the players to look at. You can also have students work with a partner to act out the emotion. This is one way to support a lower level ELL.

Another way to add variety and challenge to the game is to have students pick from a list of topics. For example, the student might choose excited and school. The student then can give a clue such as “Wow, I can’t wait for school today!  I think that it is going to be a great day because we have a class party.”

Use Short Passages

When students are first learning about tone, it is helpful to use short passages. That way they do not have a large amount of text to read over to find the tone. Task cards are one place to find short passages with a specific theme. Students can use a short passage to circle or highlight the words that the author uses to create the tone.

tone task cards


Use Music & Short Videos

Here is a list of short videos to use with ELLs



Mood and Tone Task Card Bundle 

Feelings and Emotions Self Reflection



Teaching Mood and Tone to ELLs

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