Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Original Lesson 10: Descriptive Writing

I ran this lesson today in a grade 5/6 class and I was very happy with how it went and with the progress students made in their descriptive writing.

I started by asking the class what the number one important thing to have in descriptive writing is: describing words was the first answer and we were off to a great start! I gave them their formal name (adjectives), gave a few examples and explained that they add colour, detail and interest to writing. I said that as I was in a grade 5/6 I expect complicated, challenging words. Not just happy and sad. I want devastated, miserable, elated, joyous. I asked what else helps our descriptive writing and got another brilliant answer: similies.

I set out on the whiteboard two examples of writing:

Outside it is rainy and the grass is green. That is not what I want to see in grade 5/6.

Outside, rain is pouring down rapidly and the footpath looks like a river. Lushous lawns cover the ground as far as my eyes can see. Ms Kap is panting and sprinting to our classroom with a gloomy expression. That is descriptive writing.

I showed a PowerPoint, with the images below. Each image was shown one at a time for approximately 10 minutes, during which students were asked to write as much as they could (minimum five sentences) describing what they could see. Use of adjectives and similies was emphasised throughout the session. The students found the landscapes relatively easy and the Picasso's were much more challenging because they had to focus more on emotions. I also emphasised writing about what they thought the place would sound and feel like.

 The grass is as green as a frog.
Not a cloud in sight.
The view is like you are 1000 metres high.
The crystal ocean is shimmering like a million stars.
The trees stand tall in the night.
The sand is as soft as a pillow.

 He has been in a freezer for weeks.
His fingers are as long as spider legs.
The colours make me think the artist thinks he is worthless to everyone.
The bar is on fire.
The man's hat is like a mini upside down boat.

The best part was that as I roamed around the room I discussed each student's writing, particularly what they thought their best sentence was, and if a sentence particularly impressed me I asked them to approach the PowerPoint, add a textbox and write their sentences over the image with their name at the end. This resulted in an incredibly motivated class and amazing writing, as in the captions above. Children had their hands up wanting their writing checked and were really challenging themselves with their vocabulary and similies. I took into account each child's abilities and tried to ensure as many as possible added a sentence to a picture. I didn't allow seconds, and I told students who had fantastic sentences but had already put theirs on the board that I wasn't allowing seconds, but if I was that particular sentence would have been added as well. At the end of each image, we discussed the sentences displayed and why each was an example of great descriptive writing. The result was a spectacular display of great writing over an equally spectacular image.

How do you teach descriptive writing to your class?


Kathleen Morris said...

Hi Anna,

I read this post with interest as we are teaching our grade fours about descriptive writing at the moment. I like your idea of showing images. I might try that!

This week I sent a note home with the children to think about a place in Geelong that they can write a descriptive piece about. I instructed them to talk to a family member about their writing at home. I find this is a good way to ensure the children can get straight to their task without procrastinating while thinking of an idea!

Keep up your great work. It sounds like you're enjoying your rounds.


PS - do you mean luscious lawns? :-)

Anna Kapnoullas said...

Hi Kathleen,

Thanks so much for commenting and for all your encouragement. I love your idea about students thinking about their place prior to the lesson. I think that would add to the creativity and detail of their writing. We certainly have some procastinators in my placement grade as well!

Let me know if you try it. I'd love to know how it goes with a younger year level.

Thanks and (yes) I'm absolutely loving my rounds,

PS - yes I did, fortunately I used the right spelling in front of the grade (from what I can tell from my notes) and a student used 'luscious' in their writing today unprompted - awesome! :-)