Have you ever had kids that just couldn't seem to get started writing or who would only write very basic sentences? The struggle to write descriptively is real for many younger children. They have limited experience with writing and often need support to get started. Here are 7 tips that may help to open the flood gates and get the ideas pouring onto the page.
1. Start with telling stories orally
Kids love to share their stories and adventures with others. They often get very excited when they have ideas to share and they are eager to go into great detail if others ask questions and want to know more. Using this idea and explaining that writing descriptive stories is just putting down on paper what they would share when telling someone a story may help them to get started. Perhaps they could imagine questions that others might ask and make some notes of these and the answers to use as they start their writing.
2. Use the five senses
One of the things that I found worked well with my students was finding words that fit the five senses. Using colors, shapes, textures, sizes, sounds, smells, and tastes are just some of the ways they can describe what is happening. I created some graphics and examples to help them see this in action. Check them out here.
3. Paint a picture for the reader
Using paintbrushes to create a picture is another tool that I used for my students that helped them to think of descriptive words. I would ask them to imagine that someone wasn't able to see an object. Then I would say, "How could you describe it so that they could get a really clear picture in their mind?" This helped them to think about different types of adjectives, and actions that could make the picture come to life.
4. Ideas first, conventional spelling later
Many kids are afraid to write because they don't know how to spell certain words. If they don't take a chance and get their ideas down on paper because they are afraid of spelling words wrong, nobody benefits. I believe it is important to get ideas down first and worry about correcting spelling later. Often the invented spelling is close and the stories are still readable. If the invented spelling is way off, it may be necessary to help with some of the words to help the story make sense, but nothing turns a person off more than a page full of corrections. It is important to validate the effort and then choose when to do a published copy with corrected spelling. Treat the initial writing as a draft that may or may not go to published format.
5. Choose topics for writing
If kids have a choice of what to write about, they still need to have some ideas to choose from. I use a heart that is divided in many sections and I get them to write down things they enjoy or that they are passionate about. I actually give them 2 identical hearts so that they can draw on one and write words to go along with the images on the other one. These hearts are kept in their writing book so they always have a list of go to ideas.
6. Do some examples together
Having an example to follow will help some kids get started. Here is one that I often used.
The cat sat.
The cat sat on the mat.
The brown and white cat sat on the mat.
The soft brown and white cat sat on the mat.
The soft brown and white cat sprawled on the mat.
The soft brown and white cat sprawled on the welcome mat.
i could keep going, but I think you get the idea.
Provide a checklist and criteria
If you are planning on grading the students' work, it is important to provide a checklist or criteria so that they know what is expected of them. There are many different checklists and rubrics available. Here is a checklist that could be used for primary students.
Descriptive writing takes time for many students, but if they are given lots of opportunities to write, it will improve. I hope these tips help to open those flood gates for your students.
About Me Charlene Sequeira
I am a wife, mother of 4, grandmother of 9, and a retired primary and music teacher. I love working with kids and continue to volunteer at school and teach ukulele.