Entries from May 2012 ↓

Paint chip stories

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MOMS LOVE summertime writing activities that are creative, stress-free, and fun. Here’s one idea you can try today.

Paint Chip Stories

Paint chip samples often have interesting names. Some of these names are so descriptive, they could become elements in a story! Take a quick trip to the hardware store and pick up a handful of paint chips. Then, using the paint chips as inspiration, invite your kids to write some clever stories.

The list below also contains actual names of paint colors. If you can’t make it to the paint department, simply have each child choose five paint chip names from the list and write a descriptive story using all five. Alternatively, visit My Perfect Color to browse through the amazing selection of paint chip names and pick five favorites as a story springboard.

Example: Copper Mountain, Tent, Campground, Moon, Happy Camper

Painted Sky
Tropical Holiday
Wheat Field
Gentle Rain
Baked Scone
Pebble Path
Garden Wall
Tent
Icicle
Calm Air
Scotland Road
Moon
Cloudy Day
Cup of Cocoa
Puddle
Early Morning
Vibrant
Rain-washed
Ballerina Gown
Candlelight
Happy Camper
Secret Garden
Copper Mountain
Heirloom Lace
Scroll
Parakeet
Campground
Sandstorm
Cozy Cottage
Koala Bear
Pool
Treasures
Sunlight
Splashing

Your Turn

Share five paint color names you would use in a story. For added fun, tell your story’s main idea!

Photo credit: Bob Mical, courtesy of Creative Commons. Used by permission.

5 tips for teenage writers

tips for teenage writers, descriptive writing, thesaurus, wordiness, rambling, rabbit trails

MORE OFTEN than not, my blog posts encourage parents of kids who hate to write. That’s why it was refreshing to hear from a teen who actually wants to improve her craft:

“I am 15 years of age and enthusiastic about creative writing. I mostly have trouble finding words to describe something. I tend to repeat words a lot, making the story boring and not very interesting. I have tried to mix it up, but my teachers have said it became too overwhelming to read. I  was wondering if you could give me some tips.” –Melissa

Writing that’s too wordy, disorganized, or lacking in description can definitely cause a reader to feel overwhelmed. In order to capture—and keep—their readers’ attention, students need to work on content, style, and mechanics. These tips for teenage writers will help your student improve in each of these areas.

1. Improve Description

Vivid description is one of the most useful tools a writer can use to hook and hold readers. Appealing to the five senses, descriptive writing paints word pictures using concrete, specific vocabulary.

Words, like paint, can be as subtle as watercolor or as rich and vivid as oils. Choosing the right words—and in the right amounts—entices readers and invites them to linger.

Explore these articles for tips on writing more descriptively:

2. Replace Repeated Words

Synonym Finder 150x210Writers sometimes use repetition on purpose, such as for dramatic effect.

However, if a student tends to repeat words because he’s careless, lazy, or unable to think of synonyms, his writing will soon sound monotonous.

Use a Thesaurus

A good thesaurus is one of the best tools a student can use to replace repeated words. I like The Synonym Finder, but if your kids prefer an online thesaurus, try Thesaurus.com. When they type in the word they want to replace, a bunch of options will come up.

Use a Dictionary

Word differences can be subtle, so when choosing a synonym, students should look it up in the dictionary if they don’t know what the new word means.

For example, suppose your teen has repeated the word anger several times within a paragraph or two. If the character’s anger is mild, and he simply feels bugged about something, the writer should be able to replace anger with annoyance or irritation. However, rage—a violent, out-of-control anger—would not be an appropriate substitute in this case, even though the thesaurus lists it as a synonym.

3. Stay on Track

Do you notice a lot of rabbit trails in your teens’ writing? Is it hard for them to stick to the point? When their writing rambles, they run the risk of losing their readers: if their thoughts are jumbled, their writing will be jumbled too.

To avoid rambling, writers must know what they want to say—and have a plan to get them there. Graphic organizers, outlines, brainstorming worksheets, or mindmaps can help sort and organize ideas before beginning to write.

4. Avoid Information Overload

Does your student cram too many details into her writing? While description can add depth and richness to writing, too much detail can weigh down a story.

Steeple Chase 2009Imagine yourself running barefoot through a field. The air is crisp and fresh, and you long to feel invigorated. Unfortunately, you keep stepping in sticky mud, which slows your progress and keeps you from enjoying the run.

If your teen’s writing contains too many details, or she tends to be heavy-handed with her description, her readers will feel as though they keep getting stuck in the mud. She can pick up the pace by offloading unnecessary details.

5. Watch Out for Wordiness

How does an author find the balance between writing in a concrete, sensory, descriptive manner and writing in an imposing, pretentious way?

While it’s important to try out new words, have fun with the thesaurus, and use vivid language as she writes, it’s just as crucial that your child use new vocabulary with care and humility.

A wise writer chooses her words carefully. Her writing is concise yet descriptive. When she uses too many new or strange words, her writing begins to sound pretentious or even arrogant. Help her find a good balance between stuffy vocabulary and overly simplistic word choices. Invite her to write smaller words and shorter sentences if she leans toward verbosity.

Your Turn

Is there one area that poses the greatest writing challenge for you or your student? Which tips for teenage writers will you apply first?

. . . . .

WriteShop IINeed more help? WriteShop II teaches these skills (and more) to help teens become stronger writers. To learn more about WriteShop II for your high schooler, visit our website at www.writeshop.com.

Photos: D Sharon Pruitt (girl), and Richard Vermillion (muddy foot), courtesy of Creative Commons. Used by permission.

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy.

NCHE Homeschool Convention: May 2012

This coming weekend—May 24-26, 2012—heralds one of the largest homeschooling conventions in the nation: the annual North Carolina Home Educators’ Conference and Book Fair (NCHE) in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

The amazing and helpful team of Kyra and Tami will be manning the WriteShop booth to answer your writing questions, show you our newest products, and guide you to choose the best level for your child’s writing needs.

Visit the convention site for a workshop schedule, exhibit hall hours, and driving directions.

For our friends on the West Coast, WriteShop will also be in Long Beach, California this weekend for the California Homeschool Convention. Hope to see you at one of these great events!

California Homeschool Convention: May 2012

IF YOU homeschool in Southern California, there’s a brand-new convention coming to town! With a great lineup of speakers and hundreds of curriculum exhibitors, you won’t want to miss the California Homeschool Convention this weekend, May 24-26.

The conference will be held at the Long Beach Convention Center. Visit the California Homeschool Convention for information, speaker info, and workshop schedule.

Visit the vendor booth

As you begin looking toward the next school year, it’s also the perfect time to stop by the WriteShop booth to ask questions, see what’s new, or browse through WriteShop books in person. Find us in Booth #319-321.

At the convention you can:

  • See our full line of WriteShop products
  • Purchase the newest WriteShop Primary books.
  • Thumb trhrough the exciting new WriteShop Junior materials.
  • Learn how you can teach a WriteShop co-op class in your area.
  • Receive much-needed encouragement about teaching writing.

Attend Kim Kautzer’s workshops

Kim is a featured speaker at the California Homeschool Convention.

Thursday, May 24 at 5:00 p.m. “Inspiring Successful Writers” (K-6)

Your kindergartener loves to tell stories but can hardly hold a pencil. Your 9-year-old is producing a novel. And the blank page reduces your 11-year-old to tears. What’s a parent to do? Kim will encourage and equip you to teach each of your children, whether reluctant or advanced, by breaking the writing process into manageable steps. Above all, discover how to infuse teaching time with fun so that your children will find joy in writing.

Friday, May 25 at 2:30 p.m.Ten Stumbling Blocks to Writing”

“I hate writing!” Is this the cheerful response you get when you give your kids an assignment? Then you’ll want to find out ten common stumbling blocks to writing and discover what students need in order to overcome their anxiety, fear, or lack of confidence. Learn how the steps of the writing process can actually motivate your most reluctant children, and gain tips and tools for encouraging their success.

Visit the California Homeschool Convention Website for more information. Will you be there?

The pain of grading writing | Tips for homeschool moms

Tips for Grading Writing | Is there anything harder than getting kids to write? According to homeschool moms, it’s evaluating that writing!

IS THERE anything harder than getting a child to write? According to most parents, it’s trying to grade that writing!

Your mind swirls as you worry, “How can I possibly grade objectively?”

  • I’m no writer. Who am I to judge my child’s writing?
  • I can’t get past the spelling and punctuation errors.
  • I don’t know have a clue what I’m looking for.
  • How do I offer suggestions?
  • How can I be both honest and merciful?
  • How can I justify the grade?

Often, in light of these worries, you avoid giving important feedback. Or worse, you cut back on writing altogether.

Edit First, Grade Later

Writing is a process. Though younger children aren’t ready to put their stories through a massive overhaul, they can certainly work beside you as they learn to edit and make simple changes.

Older students with more skills and confidence should revise their compositions several times.

Self-editing gives them a chance to review their own paper (ideally using an objective checklist) and make some improvements. Once they have self-edited and written a revised draft, it’s time for a second pair of eyes—yours—to review the paper.

Trying some of these editing tips will help you feel more equipped for the task.

1. Get the big picture

First, hide the red pen! Read the whole paper all the way through. Don’t stop to fuss over run-on sentences or misspelled words. Just read. Take in the main ideas.

2. Use an objective rubric

This keeps you from making guesses about the paper or imposing unrealistic expectations on your child’s writing.

3. Look for one thing at a time

Read through the paper several times.

  • The first time, look at the content. Does the story or report make sense? Are there enough details, facts, or examples? Is there a clearly defined beginning, middle, and end?
  • Next, you might inspect your child’s word choices. Are there repeated words that could be replaced by appropriate synonyms? Vague or weak words that could be exchanged for stronger, more concrete ones?
  • Finally, examine the writing for mechanics, including correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

4. Make some positive comments

Encouragement is the goal, so don’t just attack the errors. Instead, also seek out and comment on things your child did well.

  • Did she spell some difficult words correctly?
  • Did she write a completely error-free sentence?
  • Did she make some great vocabulary choices?
  • Did you appreciate a particular descriptive detail or well-defined point?

Change Your Focus

1. Do you have stinkin’ thinkin’?

Before you get totally overwhelmed by the stress of it all, shifting your perspective can make a huge difference!

Instead of worrying about how to become the perfect, impartial, encouraging grader, admit that you really do know more than your child and—with a few tools under your belt—you’re capable of rising to the task.

A renewed dose of confidence will remove the millstone of perfection that’s hanging around your neck.

2. Discriminate

Did you know you don’t have to grade every piece of writing?

  • Some writing, such as daily journals, may need nothing more than a checkmark or happy face to say “Done!”
  • Other pieces may only need a plus (+) for a good effort, a minus (-) for an unsatisfactory effort, or a simple checkmark if it’s okay.

Then you can turn your concentration toward grading those papers that need the most attention.

3. Adopt a positive outlook

When grading a paper, you may find yourself just as inclined to find fault as you did during editing. Remembering these key points will keep you optimistic about your kidswriting efforts.

  • Identify areas of growth. During the grading stage, continue to offer positive and encouraging comments that bless your child’s efforts. Point out places that her writing has improved since the first draft.
  • Consider your child’s ability and level of competence. Take care not to heap high-school level expectations on your sixth grader. Though older and younger students might complete the same writing assignment, the high schooler will typically use stronger vocabulary, better sentence structure, and more mature content.
  • Don’t compare your kids’ papers. Instead, hold them to an impartial standard that gives each one a chance to shine. Susie’s vocabulary and writing style may be more developed than Johnny’s, but if both meet the assignment’s requirements, they can each receive a top grade.

Following these tips will help you take a more positive approach as you learn to edit and grade more objectively. By doing so, you’ll also encourage your children’s success as they grow in their writing abilities.

Need more help in this area? Check out these past posts!

Your Turn

What are some of your favorite tips for grading your kids’ writing assignments?

 Photo Credit: Dreamstime stock photo

4 tips for teaching the strong-willed writer

I’m excited to welcome Daniella Dautrich as a guest blogger today! 

. . . . .

IS YOUR student a strong-willed writer? If you answered “yes,” these scenarios might ring a bell:

  • No!As a preschooler, she would refuse help with coloring pages, unwilling to accept suggestions about “normal” color choices.
  • She cries at the sight of red pencil corrections: “You wrote on my paper!”
  • She becomes quickly disheartened if you suggest any changes to her writing.
  • She is a perfectionist who wants to shine and excel in her work.

Guiding the Strong-Willed Writer

From childhood onward, I have been that strong-willed writer. My mother began homeschooling me when I was in second grade, and she quickly encountered childish tears and protests whenever she corrected my writing assignments.

When I entered high school, my parents enrolled me in Kim and Debbie’s WriteShop class, and the course was a perfect fit for my tenacious ways. When I went on to study American literature in college, my essential personality was blessedly unchanged. However, I carried with me those fundamental writing skills I first learned as a young high schooler.

Your strong-willed child is who she is, and you cannot change that about her. You can, however, guide her into a mastery of writing skills. Speaking from experience, I offer four teaching tools for more effective—and, I hope, more enjoyable—writing instruction:

1. Teach self-editing skills.

Checklists are invaluable tools for teaching self-editing. Instead of giving your student red-pencil corrections, give a checklist with reminders about strong nouns, colorful adjectives, various sentence starters, minimal “to be” verbs, etc. It diffuses emotion when she holds her paper accountable to a list of lesson requirements instead of weighing it against her own subjective expectations.

WriteShop is an excellent curriculum for teaching self-editing skills.

2. Commend her efforts and praise her successes.

You’ll probably feel some frustration when a strong-willed child sees every writing assignment as a performance, with more ecstatic highs and devastating lows than the average homeschool is fit to bear.

While others are satisfied to take directions, your student wants to be original and take the lead, so be sure to point out the positive aspects of both her writing and personality.

“Your word choices are excellent.”
“You really captured the emotion of that experience!”
“I love how you think outside the box. Your creative ending totally took me by surprise!”

3. Focus on incremental writing corrections.

Don’t overhaul her first draft. Instead, address errors bit by bit. For example, during the first week you might say: “I can spot three repeated words, five weak nouns, and four dull verbs in your paragraph.” Armed with tools such as word lists and a thesaurus, your student can identify the problem words and make the changes.

Once she’s addressed those specific issues, you might turn your focus the next week to spelling and punctuation. Review her writing and say: “I can see five misspelled words, one comma error, and two misplaced apostrophes.” Again, let her find the mistakes and make the corrections.

All the while, try to keep the editing process light-hearted. See if you can make it a game!

4. Challenge your student to imitate great writing.

Remember, Ben Franklin taught himself to write by studying and imitating great books. Samuel Johnson, who compiled the first English dictionary, likewise believed that fine written expression could only be acquired by “daily imitation” of the best authors.

When you give your students writing instruction, set aside time to examine a passage from a great book. Ask your child, “What sentence starters does the author use? Where does he place commas, periods, and quotation marks?” Copywork and dictation exercises, such as those used to supplement WriteShop I, are useful for reinforcing this learning experience.

Each of these correction strategies will teach your student to think independently and solve problems creatively. This, in turn, will prepare her for the kind of self-directed study that becomes essential in higher education. If she emotionally connects and personally identifies with her own writing, so much the better! She will likely be able to engage topics and make persuasive arguments in later fields of study.

When you approach a new writing assignment, your job as teacher is to provide the right tools and vocabulary. Remember that your child has strong ideas and convictions, and she is already motivated to express those thoughts in her own terms.

Thanks to Daniella Dautrich for joining us as a guest blogger. Daniella is a homeschool graduate and WriteShop alumna. A happily married writer and homemaker, she blogs at www.waterlilywriter.com.

 Photo: Benedict Francis, courtesy of Creative Commons

Home School Book Fair 2012: Arlington, TX

If you homeschool in the Dallas area, the annual Home School Book Fair is coming this weekend to nearby Arlington May 11-12, 2012! With great speakers and all sorts of curriculum exhibitors, you won’t want to miss this extra-special conference!

This is a perfect time to stop by to see us at Booth #605 to ask questions, see what’s new, or browse through WriteShop books in person.

At the convention you can:

At only $20 per person at the door, this is one of the most affordable homeschool conferences in the country! For workshop schedule, exhibit hall hours, and directions to the Arlington Convention Center, visit www.homeschoolbookfair.org.

Attend Kim Kautzer’s workshop

Kim is a featured speaker at the Arlington Book Fair.

You won’t want to miss her Saturday workshop, Gone Fishing: Tips and Ideas to Motivate Young Writers.

“What’s the secret to raising enthusiastic writers? Hook them while they’re young with fun, appealing activities that teach foundational writing skills. Kim will share engaging pre-writing games, clever brainstorming ideas, and creative publishing projects that will make your K-6th graders eager to write and proud to be published!”

See you there!

Mother’s Day writing activities

Mothers Day Writing Activities - Gift-giving from the heart!

MOTHER’S DAY is right around the corner. Time for breakfast in bed, roses, homemade cards, and extra snuggles!

There’s just one teeny-weeny problem: unless your children are self-motivated (or Dad’s on the ball), you may find yourself pouring your own orange juice, quietly weeping into the pancake batter, and emailing yourself a sappy e-card to mark the occasion!

Instead, be proactive and ask your children to write or create something special for you for Mother’s Day. Whether it’s a letter, essay, card, poem, or simple crafty gift, it will bring you joy to bask in your children’s sentiments on your special day!

Mother’s Day Writing Prompts

Journaling about Mother’s Day can help your kids focus on the important role of motherhood. Whether they write about special times you’ve shared together or ways you show love to your family, your kids may gain a better appreciation of what it means to be a mom.

Type up, print, and cut out the following prompts. Tell your children how much you love getting special notes and letters from them, and invite them to choose the prompt(s) they want to write about. Make craft supplies and fancy paper available in case they also want to create a card.

Prompt Ideas

  • Tell why you love your mom.
  • Explain how you know your mom loves you.
  • Tell how you know your mother loves being a mom.
  • Write about some important things you have learned from your mom.
  • What are some things you can do to make your mom’s life easier?
  • What do you think is the hardest part about being a mom?
  • If you could give your mom anything in the world for Mother’s Day, what would it be?
  • Describe something that made your mom really happy.
  • Write about five things a good mom must do.
  • How can you tell when your mom is proud of you?
  • Write a list of 10 things you appreciate about your mom.
  • What are three of your favorite things about your mom? Write about them.
  • Why is it important to celebrate your mom with her own special day?
  • Write a prayer thanking God for the things that make your mother special.

Mother’s Day Poems

  • Write a cinquain or haiku poem about mothers (or about your mom).
  • Write an acrostic poem about your mom using the letters in the word “MOTHER.” Older kids might enjoy the challenge of using all the letters in “HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY,” while younger ones can write a simpler acrostic using “MOM” or “LOVE.”
  • Ask a young child to think of words that describe you (soft, huggable, kind, loving, beautiful, warm, friendly). Then have her compare some of those traits to familiar things. For example, she might say, “Mommy is as soft as a marshmallow.” Help her create a simile poem like this one:

Mommy is as sweet as _______.
Mommy is as gentle as _______.
Mommy is as huggable as _______.
My mommy is ________.

Mother’s Day Cards and Crafts

Mother's Day Card [front]I realize it may be hard to actually ask your kids to make you a Mother’s Day card or gift, but maybe you can hint to your husband or teen to organize younger children to make one of these fun crafts!

No matter how your family celebrates you, I pray each of my mom friends enjoys a special Mother’s Day surrounded by those you love the most.

. . . . .

Your Turn

What was your most memorable Mother’s Day? OR, what is the most special Mother’s Day gift you’ve received?

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy.

On children’s books and growing a reader

Growing a reader starts at birth. Kim Kautzer shares favorite childhood & family books and how they helped shape her and her children as readers.

“Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book.” ~Author Unknown

A Friendship with Books

Affiliate links in this post are for books I loved as a child or read with my own children. I’m confident you’ll love them too!

I can’t remember my life without books, but this much I do know: my love for reading started young. My parents often told me they could hear me turning pages in the dark as I sat in my crib as a baby.

As for actually learning to read, I don’t remember a process. One day, it seemed, it just … happened. I was reading.

Children of Foreign Lands | Out of PrintI must have been five or six, shortly before we moved back to the States from our four years in Mexico City.

Back when Hawaii was still a U.S. territory and Thailand was called Siam, I would curl up on my bed to learn about Wilhelmina of Holland, Kala of Hawaii, Ching Ling and Ting Ling of China, and other Children of Foreign Lands.

Mother Goose was a dear companion, and I read my book of nursery rhymes till it fell apart. But my earliest reading memory finds me sitting on my bedroom floor in the company of Wanda Gág’s Millions of Cats, with its red and yellow cover, hand-lettered text, folk-art illustrations, and familiar refrain:

Millions of Cats | Favorite Children's BooksCats here, cats there,
Cats and kittens everywhere,
Hundreds of cats,
Thousands of cats,
Millions and billions and trillions of cats.

To this day, it remains my very favorite picture book.

That was merely the beginning. From there, I solved mysteries with The Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew, enjoyed the innocent charms of small-town childhood with Carolyn Haywood’s Betsy, and ventured into the world of trolls and princesses in The Blue Fairy Book.

Charlotte's Web | Favorite Children's BooksI traveled with the Ingalls family in covered wagons, floated on pink feather-clouds with Betsy and Tacy, and learned about regional America through Lois Lenski’s charming stories.

Always eager to re-read old favorites, I fairly wore out my copies of Heidi, Caddie Woodlawn, Charlotte’s Web, and Black Beauty. My open-minded (but non-religious) parents even bought me a Children’s Bible, my first introduction to Jesus, with his kind eyes and flowing blue robe.

Passing the Torch

Growing a reader starts at birth. Kim Kautzer shares her favorite childhood and family books and how they helped shape her and her children as readers.The librarian and I were fast friends, and nothing gave me more pleasure than strolling my young babysitting charges to that wonderful place for their first library card.

As a young mom, I enrolled my toddler in a monthly book club, which exposed us to new favorites such as The Story About Ping and The Year At Maple Hill Farm.

Reading was a huge part of our homeschooling, too. My girls followed immediately in my footsteps, becoming voracious readers early on. Spurred on by our unit studies, we would check out dozens of library books at a time. I loved introducing them to many of my old friends, even as together we discovered a wealth of books I’d never read before.

Books have never been far from my children’s reach! Our son, a late bloomer, began to enjoy reading upon discovering Nate the Great. Eventually, he came to count The Great Brain and Chronicles of Narnia series among his own favorites.

One of my fondest memories is of my middle daughter perched high in the branches of our white alder, engrossed in Little Women.

And when our eldest suffered a serious leg fracture at age 11—and middle-of-the-night pain woke her in tears—her daddy would read The Call of the Wild to her on her makeshift bed downstairs till she would once again drift off to sleep.

I’m so glad their early reading roots pushed deep into the fertile soil of excellent children’s literature. Today, their adult reading tastes vary widely from classical to contemporary, but readers they remain. It’s fun to watch my grandchildren enjoying that fruit, too.

As Charles W. Eliot once wrote:

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”

This week marks Children’s Book Week. I hope you’ll take time in your homes to celebrate by reading favorite children’s books—together and individually, and this list of the Top 100 Children’s Picture Books of All Time a great place to start!

Your Turn

Share a childhood memory about books and reading. Or, list a few of your own favorite children’s books!

Photos: a4gpa (fountain), and Andre Mourauux (three girls), courtesy of Creative Commons

Using our senses: A descriptive writing lesson

Descriptive Writing Lesson: One of the best ways to engage students in descriptive and imaginative language is through the use of the five senses.

ONE OF THE most difficult aspects of writing is perfecting the art of description—the thing that really brings a scene, image, character, or feeling alive within a piece of writing.

While younger children often love using imaginative language, many struggle to find the most appropriate and engaging words to put down on paper. One of the best ways to engage students in descriptive and imaginative language is through the use of the five senses.

Try out this fun and simple lesson to help your students experiment with descriptive language that is unique and full of life and movement.

1. Discuss the Senses

It is through our five senses that we experience the world around us. Discuss with your students what the senses are and how they work. List the five senses and invite them to come up with examples of descriptive words within each sense category.

  • Talk about sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste.
  • Collect words from your students that fall within each category. They will likely suggest that something can look pretty or ugly, sound loud or quiet, feel hard or soft, smell good or bad, taste yummy or nasty.
  • This is a great way to help them identify weak, unimaginative descriptions.

Talk about why it is difficult to come up with sensory words in this manner: Writing with your senses means you have to really take the time to see, hear, feel, smell, or taste what you are trying to write about. If you can’t experience the subject at hand with all your senses when you are writing about it, then your readers certainly won’t be able to either.

2. Experience the Senses

This is where the lesson gets interesting and fun. Gather objects your students can experience with each of their senses:

    • Sweet, salty, sour, or bitter foods for them to taste
    • Objects that are interesting to touch
    • Noise-making items to listen to
    • Fragrant or aromatic things to smell
    • Objects that are colorful and interesting to look at

Let’s say you gathered some Silly Putty, a fork, and a sharp rock to help them experience their sense of touch. Hide the items in a bag or box. Have your children take turns closing their eyes, reaching into the bag, and feeling an item. Remind them to focus on only one sense at a time (in this case, touch).

Descriptive Writing Lesson: One of the best ways to engage students in descriptive and imaginative language is through the use of the five senses.

It’s important that they only describe how the object feels (hard, sharp, pointed, cold, smooth), not what it is used for (you stab food with it). This will help focus their senses on the subject, and it will narrow their descriptive language to really pinpoint the attributes of that item. If extra help is needed, they may use word banks or a thesaurus.

Descriptive Writing Lesson: One of the best ways to engage students in descriptive and imaginative language is through the use of the five senses.

Next, hide a bell, rattle, squeaky cat toy, or other noisemaking objects in a box or bag. Have students close their eyes as you produce each sound, and then make a list together of specific words to describe it.

Descriptive Writing Lesson: One of the best ways to engage students in descriptive and imaginative language is through the use of the five senses.

Repeat this exercise with the other items you’ve collected to help them explore the other senses. Help them really zero in on one sense at a time. You and your students will be surprised and excited by the descriptive language they come up with for each of the senses, such as fluffy, icy, pliable, jagged, papery, leathery, or slick.

3. Use Descriptive Language in Writing

Once your students have recorded all of their sensory words and phrases, have them compare this list with the list they made at the very beginning.

Open up a conversation about why the second collection of words contains stronger, more descriptive language. Your students will surely explain that they were able to actually feel, see, or smell the thing they were writing about, so it was easier to come up with more concrete, specific words like downy or silky instead of just plain soft.

Stop And Smell The Flowers

This is the lesson: If you can’t picture what you are describing in your writing, neither can your reader.

Now that the students have a collection of interesting, concrete words to draw from, invite them to create a poem or story containing descriptive language. What a fun and engaging way to help students “feel” their writing to create more illuminating poetry or prose!

Thanks to Alvina Lopez for joining us as a guest blogger. Alvina is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She welcomes your comments by email at alvina.lopez@gmail.com.  

Photos: Gustaff Prins (cat), Charles Barilleaux (listening), Dan Zen (ice cream cone), and Paul De Los Reyes (rose), courtesy of Creative Commons
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