Young writers can be very businesslike in their approach to short fiction: write it down, get to the point, the end!
Sadly, what gets lost along the way are all the details that allow the reader to see into the world of the story.
To help young writers think about creating compelling descriptions, I like to invite them to create a drawing of something before writing about it. By focusing on the details of their drawing, they are able to write detailed descriptions of characters and settings.
I like to start off the year by asking my young students to imagine and draw a fantastic creature whose very existence revolves around reading and writing: the Poetry Monster. Students never fail to surprise me with the inventiveness of their creations. Not only do they build an awareness of the skills needed to be an expert reader and writer, they end up creating engaging characters that are then featured in stories about the Poetry Monster’s adventures. These stories, of course, are not lacking in description!
Here are two very different Poetry Monsters and the descriptions that two students wrote about them:
This monster is named Poe. She is a poetry monster. Don’t worry, it’s a nice monster. Poe’s ears are sharpeners for all her sharpening needs. Her clothes are papers so she can grab one and it will grow back. Her left eye is a magnifying glass so she can read everything. Her tail is an eraser tail for her eraser needs. Her left arm is a pencil and her right arm is flat for writing on. Her horns grow food and ink so she does not have to get up. Her ears are for papers to clip up because her ears have clips. Her hair is pencil lead. Poe’s greatest wish is to be famous because of her poetry.
by Claudia, 3rd Grade
He has lead as his claws. Peanut butter chocolate bars on his head. His ears are made of ink. His mouth is an eraser. His body is made of pencil sharpeners. He has 50 eyes that he thinks, then it comes up on the paper. His tail is made of pencils and pens. The thing he most wants in the world is coffee. The person he is most afraid of is Mr. TV. He lives in Peanut Butter Land, where everything is made of peanut butter. You have to eat 100 peanut butter chocolate bars, then you go there magically. His biggest wish is for his own island where he can write in peace with no noises aside from the ocean and seagulls.
by Drew, 3rd Grade
As you can see, these characters are developing well, and will soon be put into action in these young writers’ stories!
posted by Tria Wood, Writers in the Schools