Monday, May 16, 2011

Descriptive Writing - Word Choice

Our school uses the 6+1 Writing Framework to teach our students writing strategies. Recently, I focused on word choice, or descriptive writing, with my second grade students. The goal was to paint a picture in our minds as we write. I began the lesson with an introductory video on word choice. Afterward, I went through the video frame by frame to discuss how descriptive words were used.

The students had a good grasp of some descriptive words, but I wanted to show how to use them in sentences, so we read the book "A House for Hermit Crab" by Eric Carle. This wonderfully illustrated book uses many different adjectives and a variety of verbs to say similar things; there is almost a pattern to the writing. After each page, I would set the book down and ask the students to share the descriptive words used by the author.

Finally we were ready to try writing descriptive sentences on our own. While I used a software program that had pictures, you could also do this on paper. I modeled picking a picture of a dog and writing a very simple sentence: "I saw a dog." I then wrote a second, more descriptive sentence underneath: "A fierce-looking dog growled at me as I scurried by." The students were instructed to do the same, find a picture, write a simple sentence and then a more descriptive one. Depending on the time remaining in class, some students wrote a third sentence, some picked another picture and others edited their classmate's sentences to make them even more descriptive. We ended the class with an oral sharing of each student's sentences.

Additional class periods were spent writing a story using the descriptive words found in the book, and any other words the students thought of. The word list is here. Since we have Microsoft Word in our classroom, the students used the highlighting feature to identify their descriptive words. This was a wonderful self-editing tool as some of them saw that they did not have many descriptive words. They also had to evaluate all their words to decide if they were descriptive or not. We ended this unit with our collaborative stories that I have previously written about.


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