Saturday, September 8, 2012

"Expand" your students' writing with Descriptive Details {Freebie}

Hi all! We made it through another week! Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. My kiddos are troopers this year and I feel like we have started the year off with a bang. Although after getting 14 hours of sleep last night, I'm still tired!

We started state testing on Wednesday to get a benchmark for the year. Not fun. One of my littlest ones came into school in tears because he hadn't scored well on the test last year and was scared about the test. It broke my heart. Since I changed from first grade to third grade this year, it is my first year giving the state test. Thankfully we only have one more day of testing next week and then can focus on instruction and learning so that the kids will feel more ready in the spring. What do you do to help those kiddos with anxiety and nerves about testing? I'm thinking I will have a fun test prep theme in the spring like "Rock the Test" with a guitar and rock 'n roll theme or something like that.

Last year my team and I started this challenge called "Finding the fun in rigorous instruction." Okay, so I actually started it and was lucky that the rest of my awesome team humored me in the process :) My school has a huge push for "rigorous instruction" without the "fluff." I am all for purposeful learning and lessons, but I also became a teacher because I love the fun, creative aspect of teaching. I felt like rigorous instruction was getting misunderstood with intense worksheets, extensive writing and too many two-dimensional lessons. I call a "two-dimensional lesson" one that doesn't go beyond worksheets. It's flat. So when I was going to be teaching descriptive writing to my third graders this week, I knew I needed a little spunk.

We read the book, Crickwing, by Janell Cannon. I LOVE LOVE her books. Stellaluna is one of my absolute favorites, and although Crickwing is about a cockroach- I still love it!

The book has so much descriptive language, so I had the kiddos do a listening activity for really good adjectives and verbs. I was really impressed at how many they were able to write down just from listening to the story. We talked about "said" substitutes last week (other descriptive ways of saying  "said"), so they were really good at picking out those. I made up the quick recording sheet below- it can be used with any book though. Click on the picture if you want to download it for {Free}.

This would be a super easy independent activity during centers, too. Students can fill out the sheet as they are reading silently or with a buddy. 

After the kiddos had a chance to identify descriptive examples in books, I gave them a chance to edit a sample paragraph and insert better descriptive words.  I just typed up a short paragraph with very basic language. But the fun part about this lesson is this little guy (there were ants in the Crickwing story, so that is kind of how it tied in, too):

This little ant is one of those toys from the dollar store that grows 600% when you put him in water. I used him to demonstrate how descriptive details EXPAND our writing. When the students were editing the sample paragraph I gave them with descriptive language I gave them these little sheets:

I thought this would be a good visual for them to see how many more detail they needed to add. When they came to me with their fixed-up paragraph, I would tell them how full their cup of details was. If they only added a few descriptive examples, they were "Almost Empty." If they added many details and substituted overused words with better language, they were "Filled to the Brim." When they got to that point, they got to add a cup of water to our little critter.

The whole class really rallied together to get everyone's cups "Filled to the Brim" so we would have enough water to cover our little ant. I forgot to take a picture of how big he was after he grew, but the kids ran into the classroom the next day and were so excited to see how their "Cups of Descriptive Details" made our ant expand.

Last thing, I did an interview for Teacher Certification if you want to check it out {HERE}

I really enjoyed reading the other teacher's interviews on the website, so definitely check them out, too!

Okay, I lied, one more last thing: I am 50 followers away from 700 over at my little TpT store!! Once I reach 700 I am going to have a HUGE giveaway on my blog, so if you haven't become a follower of my shop, click {HERE}!


  1. Thanks for sharing a wonderful writing activity! I'm glad I found your blog.

    Hooty's Homeroom

  2. LUV this idea, Krista - thanks so much for sharing! Heading to the dollar store this weekend to pick up my BUGS! :o)

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