Empowering Writers

December 2014 Lesson of the Month

So, how about a lesson of the month that includes it all – holiday cheer, a fun art connection, and solid instructional value that will enhance student writing? This lesson, taken from “Easy Art Activities that Spark Super Writing”, involves the creation of a Snowman and an elaborative detail lesson that will impress! Students can bring home their creations to accent their seasonal family decorations.

Elaborative detail is the one narrative writing skill that really transforms student writing! How many times have you found yourself asking, “Can you give me a little more detail?” and students simply locate nouns in their writing and insert adjectives in front of them – usually size words, number words, or color words. For all their effort it does little to improve the writing.

We often fail to teach students WHY we’re asking them for more detail. It’s important to explain that authors focus their description on important story critical characters, settings, or objects in the story. They don’t throw in adjectives indiscriminately. The point is to flesh out the characters, settings, or objects that the reader will really be interested in, drawing attention to them in vivid ways.

We also need to teach students that detail needs to be SPECIFIC. A really poor question to ask children (as a means of generating detail about a character) is, “What did she look like?”

A general question yields a general response. Kids will likely answer, “Nice”. Or “Mean”. Instead, specific questions such as, “How big or tall was she?” What kind/color of hair did she have?” “What was she wearing?” “What was her facial expression like?” Once we learn to ask specific questions we can start to elicit the kinds of specific details we want to see. As we always say, “The quality of questions you ask determine the quality of responses you’ll get”.

Download the lesson and discover some of the powerful techniques that will dramatically improve your students’ descriptive skills. Oh, and by the way – if that’s not enough, the lesson is also FUN!