Focused Description in Narrative Writing

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Objective

SWBAT write sentences using strong verbs and adjectives in narrative writing.

Big Idea

Good writers focus in on the details.

Descriptive Phrases

10 minutes

Yesterday the students participated in an activity where they took turns describing nouns that other people had chosen.  Their goal was to use descriptive phrases and precise words to paint a picture.

The students need to start by rereading those descriptions.  As they read, they are going to circle any words that stand out as being exceptionally descriptive.  

We will review what we did yesterday by discussing what makes them descriptive. Students will share some of their favorite phrases, and  I will ask, "Why did you choose those phrases?"  "What made them stand out to you?"

 As a class, we will discuss their answers and comment on the ways their classmates used description. We will also refer back to the list of ways to make writing descriptive that we generated yesterday.  

Tree Map

15 minutes

Now, I will have student make a tree map on a blank piece of paper with the noun they used as the title.  The branches will be 1.  descriptive phrases 2.  strong verbs  3.  similes  4.  sentences

First, the students will take 3 or so of the best descriptive phrases from their list and put them on the tree map.  If students couldn't find 3 or 4 that they liked, they can feel free to write their own.  

Next, the students will generate a list of strong verbs associated with their noun.  I find this to be the hardest part of the lesson because the students see their noun as an object to be described instead of an object with the potential for action.  Because I know they will have trouble with this,  I'll start by reviewing verbs again.  (sigh....will it ever sink in?)  I'll remind them that these strong verbs must show action!

I'll start with my example, cup.  Now the typical verb associated with "cup" is drink, but that is very predictable and not so strong.  We will generated some other words for drink:  sip, guzzle, gulp, slurp....Then I will ask the students, "What else can we do with a cup besides drink out of it?"  My students say things like, "We can pour or spill or do the cup song with it."  (Pause here while the entire class does the cup song routine...)  Then, add those verbs to the tree map.  

About half of my class needed support here.  They either needed help getting started with generating verbs, or they came up with a list of adjectives that they falsely thought were verbs.  I also encouraged them to ask the people sitting in their group for advice on verbs at this point. 

Next, I took the opportunity to review the dreaded simile.  I almost passed out when most students thought that a simile was two words with similar meanings.  I know they learned this in 5th grade!   Here we go again.  I reviewed similes, wrote a quick definition up on the board, and showed them how to write one.  I always tell the students to think of a defining characteristic of the noun they have chosen.  For example, a cup can be fragile.  Now, think about other things that are fragile and choose one that is unique to create your simile.  The tea cup was fragile like a starfish. This is not a formal simile lesson.  I used this opportunity to review them since the text they are reading next week contains gobs of figurative language including similes.  Most students were able to write a simile although many were very basic or cliche.  At least they understood the gist of it!

Under the sentence portion of the tree map, students used the strong verbs along with adjective phrases and/or similes to write 2 or 3 sentences.  This was also challenging, and I had to monitor and redirect often.  I found it worked best when the students chose their verb first and created the sentence based on the verb.  

Application

15 minutes

The last step in this process is for students to write a paragraph about their noun using strong adjectives and verbs.  This paragraph can be descriptive or narrative.  I let them know that I am expecting them to use at least 3 strong verbs and 3 adjective phrases in their writing.  

I will use the data that I collect from the activity to compare student growth from the baseline data I took.  I am expecting to see great growth based on the improvements students have made over the past couple of days in class.  If I feel that most students have mastered this standard, I will be able to move on.  If not, we will spend another day or two practicing using and generating strong and precise words.  I will also use this paragraph to detect any weaknesses using specific nouns.  I have touched on this in my instruction, but I haven't taught a lesson explicitly on using them.