This brilliant guest blog is from my awesome friend and colleague Miss E (who you will also find over on Twitter). We share a love of all things literacy and Miss E is full of wonderfully creative writing inspiration. She’s hugely passionate about English and has been keen to contibute with exciting ideas and writing tasks to try at home. This is her first blog post… but I’m sure you’ll agree that it should not be her last!
Using ‘My Favourite Place’ to inspire descriptive writing
If this time of isolation and social-distancing has taught me anything, it has taught me that it really is the little things in life that generate happiness and gratitude. I find myself counting down the minutes until I take my daily exercise, and each time – although my walk usually consists of a similar lap of the park – I find that something different grabs my attention; I notice something new.
Using nature to inspire writing is a calm way to engage children; giving them the time and space to observe a natural environment can be eye-opening and children will often observe things adults haven’t.
1) Your favourite place
On your daily walk or exercise with your child, find a place or a space where nature is in abundance and where they feel calm and happy. Get your child to sit or stand in this place and soak in all that is around them using the five senses to help them – you might want to take a picture to help inspire their writing when you return home. Below is an image from one of my favourite places…
If you have outdoor space at home, you might choose to do this in your garden, where you can spend a little longer sitting and sketching the surroundings – honing in on any areas that are of particular interest e.g. a particular plant/tree or an animal.
2) Prepare for writing
After your walk, your child can spend some time continuing their sketch indoors (this is where a picture may come in handy). This might be as vast as an entire setting or a narrowed focus, such as a specific tree, plant or animal. Whilst your child is sketching, asking key questions will help them consider their landscape in greater detail. Talk for Writing is an excellent way for children to verbalise their thoughts before putting pen to paper.
Prompts might include:
- What was the texture of that/What does it feel like to touch?
- If the wind blew, what sort of sound would it make?
- If you stepped on it, what sort of sound would it make?
- When it moves, how would you describe its movements?
- What colour is it?
- As you sit here, what can you hear?
- As you sit here, what can you smell or taste?
- When you are here, how does it make you feel? Why?
3) Initial ideas
Now, once they have a sketch and have had some valuable talk-for-writing around these questions, your child will be bursting with thoughts and ideas around this landscape. At this point, begin to write some ideas around the sketch, considering the questions above. These might be single words or they might be full sentences.
My favourite way to get children to think creatively is to introduce figurative language and the five senses. Depending on the age of your child, consider using similes, metaphors and personification (click on the links for a relevant video from BBC Bitesize!). These ideas will help form the basis of a piece of your child’s writing. See some examples below…
4) Plan your writing!
First of all, ask them how many paragraphs they would like (remembering that each paragraph must have a main focus). For example, in paragraph one I will write about the landscape as a whole and in paragraph two I will focus on the trees. Once your child has this noted this rough plan in their head, or on a piece of paper, it will help to keep their thoughts and ideas focussed.
Now you are ready to write! This is where it can get messy, giving your child a scrap piece of paper to draft their ideas is a good way to encourage the true writing process. When writing a descriptive piece, it is important for your child to consider the structure of their writing.
5) Try using DADWAVERS to help with structure
Using the acronym DADWAVERS is a fantastic way to help keep children’s descriptive writing structured and engaging (I am stealing this idea from the Literacy Shed Plus, which is an absolutely invaluable resource for writing stimuli – see their brilliant DADWAVERS blog and examples).
What is DADWAVERS?
The Literacy Shed DADWAVERS is a teaching tool or strategy that can be used by teachers and parents to help students to structure their descriptive writing. Essentially, it is a way to model sentence writing by breaking them down into eight key sentences, each with a specific focus in mind. First, write a sentence focussing on description, a second sentence with action, a third with dialogue etc., until you’ve written a whole paragraph. Children really enjoy this challenge!
Estimation of time
Simile or Metaphors
DADWAVERS give clues and ideas on how to start sentences, giving the children’s writing more depth and encouraging children to consider different ways to construct sentences. Here is an example of a first draft:
After using this technique with my own Year 6 class, it is something I now always use when teaching descriptive writing!
You can download a PDF of the Literacy Shed planning template below:
…Share and Connect!
We’d love to read your amazing descriptive writing! You can either comment in the box below or post a photo on social media (you can find Literacy with Miss P on Facebook and Twitter) using the hashtag #literacywithmissp
Please post your outcomes and happy writing!
Miss E x