This lesson focuses on using description to explain a situation. I've discovered that it is easiest for students to grasp the concept of description by telling them to "show" the reader the story rather than just "telling" the reader the story. By using this lesson early in the year, students also begin to understand how important descriptive writing is not only in narrative form, but when using specific evidence in argumentative and informational essays as well.
I explain to students that the purpose of descriptive writing is to allow the reader to visualize the events and people of their stories (RL.9-10.5).
First, I put the following quote on the board,
"Don't say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream"-Mark Twain
I ask students to tell me what Twain was saying. Students and I will then discuss the importance of determining the way specific phrases are used in text and how they effect meaning (RL.9-10.4).
Before students practice writing their own description, I want them to be exposed to description in literature. I display the following excerpt from Chapter 1 of To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop; grass grew on the sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square. Somehow, it was hotter then: a black dog suffered on a summer’s day; bony mules hitched to Hoover carts flicked flies in the sweltering shade of the live oaks on the square. Men’s stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o’clock naps, and by night were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum.
I lead students through a discussion about Lee's description of the fictional town of Maycomb. I want students to understand the impact of specific word choice on meaning (RL.9-10.4). This Teacher explanation of the anchor text video explains what I say to students. We continue through the text in the same way.
In yesterday's lesson, students focused on identifying a small seed story to tell. Today, students are going to build on that skill and develop a small seed story using description (W.9-10.3b).
I distribute the Show+vs+Tell+Hook.doc assignment and explain to students that they need to choose one of the prompts and write a seed hook using description similar to the TKAM anchor text. The handout asks students to write questions before they write their hook. I ask students to do this because it helps them focus on their subject. When I was in high school, I had a teacher who asked us to write three questions before we researched, before we read a text, and before we wrote anything. It helped me really focus on the prompt and I've found it helps my students as well.
As students are working, I will walk around and confer with students. I will ask students to read their work aloud so that I can hear their reading voice.
I ask students for volunteers to share their descriptive hook. I put the writing under the document camera. Students and I read the introductions and discuss what makes them great.
At the end of class, I tell students to put their writing in their binder as unfinished writing. At the end of the semester, I will ask students to finish and publish three pieces of writing from throughout the semester. This is one of the pieces of writing they can choose.