WHEN TEACHING a new writing skill or genre such as writing a descriptive narrative, it often helps to play a game to introduce the concept. I love these prewriting games because kids learn important writing skills through play. At the same time, there’s no pressure to write everything down.
To introduce a 5-paragraph descriptive narrative, try this entertaining prewriting activity.
Gather Your Supplies
1. Tell your children to pretend they’re going to spend the night at a cousin’s, grandparent’s, or best friend’s house. Ask each child to gather three favorite things to take along, and put them in their own tote bag or backpack. For now, they should keep the items a secret.
2. While they’re collecting their treasures, gather three of your own favorite things you might pack for a trip. Place your items in a tote bag, too. Remember: Don’t show each other your objects until you do this activity together.
Play the Game
You will go first. As you take your turn, you’ll be explaining the format of a 5-paragraph descriptive narrative.
1. First, tell your kids that your tote bag contains three favorite things you might bring along on an imaginary trip. But don’t take them out yet! For now, just name your three items. This represents the opening paragraph, or introduction, of the 5-paragraph narrative.
2. Next, open your tote and take out one item. Give its name and describe three details about it, such as what it looks like, what it is used for, or why you like it. This represents the first paragraph in the body.
3. Now take out the second item. Name and describe it with three details. This represents the second paragraph in the body.
4. Repeat with the third item, which represents the third paragraph in the body.
5. Return all three items to your tote bag and close it. Finish your turn by explaining why you would choose those items to take on an imaginary trip. This represents the last paragraph, or closing.
Now it’s your children’s turn. One at a time, have them:
- Name the three items inside their backpack.
- Pull out and show one item, tell its name, and describe three details about it.
- Repeat with the second and third items.
- Return all three items to their tote and explain why they would choose to take them on an imaginary trip.
Application: Write a Descriptive Narrative
If you want to take this activity further, invite your children to write a descriptive narrative about their imaginary trip. Though the “What’s in My Bag?” game may also be played with younger children, the writing project itself is more suited to 4th grade and up.
Remind students how a 5-paragraph composition is structured:
- The first paragraph will be the Introduction. In this paragraph, your student will introduce the three objects.
- The next three paragraphs will be the Body. They will describe one object in each paragraph by telling three details about it.
- The last paragraph will be the Closing. This is where students will wrap up the descriptive narrative and explain why they would take these three objects on their trip.
Even if your kids aren’t quite ready for 5-paragraph writing, I’m sure your whole family will have fun playing the game!
Copyright 2013 © by Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.
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Take a look at WriteShop Primary for early-elementary ages, WriteShop Junior for upper elementary, and WriteShop I for 6th – 10th grade. You’ll love the writing games and brainstorming worksheets that equip and inspire successful writers.