Friday, December 2, 2011

Descriptive Segments: Draw a Picture in the Reader's Mind

Writer's draw pictures in reader's mind with words.

Ralph Fletcher draws a vivid picture of Grandma's hands in these sentences from his book, Fig Pudding.

I spent about fifteen minutes studying her hands, the dark veins slowly throbbing under skin that looked thin and clear as tissue paper.  Her hands made me think of driftwood, old and pale and worn smooth. They were stained brown in places but she still had one strong grip.

John Reynolds Gardiner draws a detailed picture in our minds of the Jackson, Wyoming setting in his story, Stone Fox.  He uses words to describe the sights, sounds and feelings.

It's not a dirty snow  It's a clean, soft snow that rests like a blanket over the entire state.  The air is clear and crisp, and the rivers are all frozen.  It's fun to be outdoors and see the snowflakes float down past the brim of your hat, and hear the squeak of the fresh powder under your boots.

Tonight, write three-four sentences that clearly describe the setting in your personal narrative #1.  Draw a picture with words in your reader's mind.

My example:

The old, brick school stood like a castle on the paved and grassy school yard.  Children happily played ball, ran through the grassy field and climbed on the old, silver playground equipment below.  Like smiling eyes, the school's giant windows reflected the bright, happy moment.

Kayla's Example
" The sun shined so bright and the waves crashed down on the sandy rock beach as we dove into them under the water. We tried to stay above, but the the waves like monsters pulled us back under."

Leads: Story Bait

Authors carefully craft a story's lead sentence.  The lead sentence, first sentence, in a story invites the reader into the text.  As bait attracts fish, the lead sentence attracts the reader to the rest of the story.

There are many ways to write a lead sentence:
  • Write a descriptive segment prompting the reader to feel like he/she is right there in the middle of the story setting. Dancing in the bright spring sunshine while the children played below on the Indian Hill School playground, my featherweight Brownie dress hung like a flag from the teachers' room window on the school's second floor.
  • Ask a Question:  "Do you want to go home?" my teacher, Mrs. Foley, asked me.
  • Start with Dialogue:
    • Craft a symbolic statement: The yellow paint adorned my Brownie dress like a splash of sunshine.
    • Do you have a better idea?  If so, let me know.
    Tonight, use one of the lead ideas above and write the lead to your personal narrative #1 in the comment section below.  I'll take a look at your leads tomorrow morning.  Email me if you have questions.

    Awesome Adverbs

    While verbs describe the action in a story, adverbs "add" to the verbs by telling how the action is done.

    For example in the sentence:

    John walked quickly to the market.

    "Walked" is the verb that tells the action, and "quickly" is the adverb that describes how the action is done.

    Most adverbs end in "ly" such as quickly, slowly, happily, and cleverly, but some do not end in "ly" such as these adverbs of place that answer the question, where?
    downstairs, there, outsideabove, away, below, down, here, inside, there, up 

    Write three sentences that describe actions you like to do. Add an adverb to each sentence.  Use this list
     if you need help coming up with adverbs for your sentences.

    This is another article that can help you to understand adverbs.

    Ms. Devlin's Example:

    1. I ski cautiously down the steep mountain trails.
    2. I hike dreamily through the autumn forest.
    3. I correct math tests thoughtfully each week.

    Tuesday, October 25, 2011

    Vivid Adjectives

    Adjectives describe nouns. Nouns are people, places, things and ideas.  You can usually touch a noun.

    Adjectives add colortexturesize, number, shape, and  

     to nouns.  

    For example, you could write:

    I have a cat.

    Or you could write:
    I have a big, fluffy, sleepy orange with black stripes cat.

    When reading the first sentence, the reader might imagine:

    When reading the second sentence, the reader might imagine this:

    Writers are magicians who use words like paintbrushes to create vivid images in the readers' minds.


    Be a magician. Write a descriptive sentence that creates a colorful, vibrant, textured image in my mind. I will make a picture of each image you create.

    Monday, October 24, 2011

    In Storytelling, Three is a Magic Number

    Roy Peter Clark, in his article,"If I were a carpenter," suggests 20 tips for wonderful writing.  He writes, "In storytelling, three is the magic number. Four is too many. Two is not enough."

    So when writing, strive to provide three examples each time. When you make lists of three, remember to add a comma between the first and second example. You can choose whether you add a comma between the second example and the word and. Whatever you choose to do, you're supposed to stick with that choice throughout your writing piece.

    Assignment:  Complete each sentence below in the comment section.

    My favorite objects in my bedroom are my ______________, ______________ and _____________.

    During summer vacation, I like to _______________, _______________ and ________________.

    My favorite activities in school are ________________, ______________ and _______________.

    Here's my example of the assignment.
    My favorite objects in my bedroom are my poetry books, Navajo blanket and puffy comforter.
    During summer vacation, I like to travel, ride my bike and swim.
    My favorite activities in school are technology, art projects and read aloud.

    Tuesday, October 18, 2011

    Strong Verbs

    "LET GO of go!"

    Strong verbs make the movie in fiction and the documentary in nonfiction.  Strong verbs allow the reader to specifically imagine a story's action.  

    Young children often over use the verb, go.  They will write stories such as this: 

     I go to the park.  I go on the swings. I go to the sandbox.  I go down the slide.

    That's a great story if you're in the early grades, but by the time you're in fourth grade it's time to let go of go and use strong verbs in your writing.

    That story would have been more interesting if it was written like this:

    After a long day at school, I skip to Lake Park.  I fly high into the clouds on the swings, and I build giant sandcastles and villages in the soft, wet sand in the sandbox.  Just before I march home, I climb up the steep ladder and zip down the silver slide as fast as an airplane in the sky. 

    I underlined the strong verbs in the story above.

    Blog Post Assignment: Write three sentences about what you do after school.  Include at least three strong verbs. Use snappy word to help you find vibrant verbs.

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

    Specific Nouns

    Wonderful writers use specific nouns when they write.  Instead of writing a sentence like this, "He goes to the park," a wonderful writer might write a sentence like this instead, "Michael rides his blue bike to Hannah Williams Park after school every Monday afternoon."  Wonderful writers name things specifically.

    Nouns are words that name persons, places, things and ideas.  Write two sentences about your life and use at least 3 specific nouns in each sentence.  Most specific nouns are proper nouns so don't forget to capitalize them.

    Ms. Devlin's Example: (I underlined all the specific nouns)

    Uncle Neil and Aunt Miriam treated me to my first airplane ride to Miami, Florida when I was sixteen years old.

    My husband, Mike, sons, Ryan, Matt and Sean, and I enjoy biking around the Charles River in Boston, Massachusetts.