Understanding the Use of Descriptive Writing

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SWBAT analyze the characters of a story and explain how their actions relate to the progression of the story.

Big Idea

To help students understand how the author's portrayal of the characters help move the story and make it interesting to the reader.

Overview of Lesson

In this lesson students are asked to share how they spent their summer by writing a paragraph about their summer vacation. In most Reading/Language Arts classes, teachers begin the year having students tell about their summer vacation. In this lesson, I try to make this experience a little more meaningful for students by hooking them with the story, "How I Spent My summer Vacation" by Mark Teague. In this lesson we also speak about the main character of the story and how his description of his adventures, drive the story.

Shared Reading

15 minutes

I open the lesson by asking students to tell me in one sentence what they did over the summer. Students are given a sheet that has a place for them to write what they did on one side. On the other side, students are able to record some descriptive words used in the story. Students will complete this part of the task after I've read the story.  I set an online timer using the smart board for students to write down their summer events. I set the timer for 1 minute so they are not tempted to write a lot of information. I tell students to limit their response to one to two sentences. Afterwards I call on individual students and listen as each tell what they did. After students finish, I read the story "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" by Mark Teague. I use the "Shared Reading" method to read the story and introduce to students how to be an active reader. After reading,  I ask students to turn their sheets over. I have students write down any words that described something the main character did in the story in an exciting way. 

Shared Writing

15 minutes

After we read the story, I asked students to share some of the words that they wrote that were descriptive to them. We wrote these on the board. I ask students to tell me what some of these words did to the story. Some of the students responded by saying it made them want to listen more and it made it exciting to see what would happen next. So I talked to students about how authors use strong words to get their reader's attention. I told students to look at their sentence on their paper and think about their summer vacation. I wrote this sentence on the board, This summer, I went to Charleston, South Carolina. I asked students if my sentence was exciting or descriptive. Of course the answer was no. To make sure students are thinking, I asked the class to tell me how I can make my vacation seem more exciting. Students suggest that I use some description and exciting words like the author used in the story we read. Some students suggest I make my vacation sound like an adventure like the main character in the story did. So I continue by asking students to give me some strong words that would help my vacation come to life like the character in the book did. As students suggest words, I add them to the board. Students give words like fun, exciting, sunny, and beautiful. I then ask students what types of things should I tell them about my vacation. Students suggest telling what I did, where I went, how I liked it, how the trip made me feel, or something really interesting that I did or that happened while on the trip. I continue this part of the lesson by adding sentences and descriptive words to my original sentence until I end up with a paragraph about my summer. 

Independent Practice

25 minutes

During the Shared Writing section of the lesson, I wrote down some of the questions students said that could be answered in our writing. Some of the questions we generated were:

  • What things did you do?
  • Where did you go?
  • What did you like about your trip?
  • Did something exciting or interesting happen?
  • Did you see anything exciting or interesting?
  • How did you feel about your trip? 

Now that we've done some writing together, I ask students to consider some of the suggestions they gave me and use them to make their description of their summer vacation more exciting. I also tell students to think about the questions we created as an anchor chart. I ask students to use these questions to write a paragraph about how they spent their summer vacation. I tell students to remember to use their original sentence/s to start and then add to it by answering the questions from the anchor chart in a descriptive and exciting way. I also tells tudents to think about the story we read as a model. As students work, I circulate the room to support students in their writing.


10 minutes

During this time, I ask students to share some of their writing. I also close the lesson by asking students to summarize how using strong words and description help make their writing more interesting.