Spotlight on Strategies
Helping students write more descriptively
"Show Don't Tell"
This video provides us of the writer's perspective before we begin to focus our students on the task at hand. These tips will help you guide students to more important description.
IL State Standards:
Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.
Use dialogue and description to develop experiences and events or show the responses of characters to situations.
Use concrete words and phrases and sensory details to convey experiences and events precisely.
Image Choices: Since we are reading The Hobbit as a class, I use landscape drawings of different settings in the book I found online for both activities. In addition, after we do this activity, I read the description of the setting from the book to equip my students with additional vocabulary and further demonstrate the necessity description has. I highly recommend finding images that will be meaningful to your students, as my students enjoy comparing their mental image to their drawing and the picture shown.
Strategy 1: Solo Student Artist
For this demonstration, I randomly select a volunteer and ask them to leave the room. While that student is gone, I ask the rest of the class to observe a picture of a landscape. After a few minutes of observation, I then ask the volunteer to reenter the room. At that point, he or she may call on anyone in the class to give them a description of the landscape they were shown. The volunteer must recreate the landscape as best they can using the SMART Board Notebook. At the end, we compare the picture to the drawing and discuss what words would have helped provide more description. Repetition improves both their individual skills as well as classroom strategies. The purpose is for students to create accurate descriptions using nouns and adjectives.
If we have time, we usually compile the different descriptive sentences into a coherent paragraph to write our our descriptive essay.
Strategy 2: Whole Class Draw
This puts students on the other end of the issue. Students will use "GoFormative" to draw while the teacher describes a landscape picture. This way, the teacher will have their drawings immediately in a web browser to compare the photograph to their work, and also to compare & contrast student work samples with the class. In addition, this allows every student to draw their own depiction of what is being described. The purpose is for students to realize the detail necessary for every reader to have a similar experience when reading their work. Also, it shows students that when we read, our mental pictures will all vary.
At the end of each activity (repeated however many times you see fit), a small group and classroom discussion are very beneficial. Questions I ask my students to discuss are:
Why is it important to give detailed descriptions?
How can a lack of details be harmful to a reader?
How can details improve a readers interest in our story?
What types of words should we add to help our own stories be more descriptive?
This picture is used to introduce basic description such as basic landforms, color, etc. As the main plot device, students are particularly excited when they discover what they were asked to draw.
Ruins of Dale
We use this image to talk about descriptive words that create a mood or tone. Example Answers: solemn, ruined, desolate, eerie, deserted, abandoned, etc.
This picture is great for directional description, as well as orientation of different objects in a scene.
Ruins of Dale
- What methods could be added to improve student descriptive vocabulary?
- How could the use of technology transform this activity even more?
- How would student collaboration improve descriptive writing?
Citations & Credits
Key To Descriptive Writing: Specificity. (2016). Glen C. Strathy. Retrieved from http://www.how-to-write-a-book-now.com/descriptive-writing.html
Why is Narrative Writing Important. (2016). Bright Education. Retrieved from
How to Become a Descriptive Writer : English & Writing Lessons. (January 14, 2013). eHow Education. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4ENH-zQgWU
Prairie Landscape. [Web Photo]. Retrieved from
Ruins of Dale. [Web Photo]. Retrieved from
Lonely Mountain. [Web Photo]. Retrieved from
Rivendell. [Web Photo]. Retrieved from
Pictionary. [Web Photo]. Retrieved from