Descriptive writing Ds yr 4(17 Posts)
How do you improve on a child's writing. Ds can't seem to use good description and if forced to it is very limited to, for example - "the yellow sun or the huge dragon" - but nothing more and its like pulling teeth. August born but still Very able in all other areas including reading and spelling - but depth of writing I don't think is Year 4 level and there is a huge contrast between that and other areas of the curriculum so just for example if I rate maths at 5 and reading spelling at 4 - I would rate the quality of his writing at 2. School aren't much help as he doesn't have any special needs- and is not in lower ability groups. I will add that he reads a lot and always has done; we talk about books. He is a talker and shows imagination through made up games etc - but it I noticed he doesn't translate to written work. For example he can randomly look at a cloud and explain how to him it looks like an elephant but he can't express anything deeper through description- if he writes a story - it is very factual and he often doesn't give his characters names unless prompted. I think most of the children in his ability groups would be doing this. Any advice please - things I can help him with especially over the summer. Thanks
Maybe get him a little notebook where he can record interesting vocabulary he comes across through reading (or elsewhere). Teach him some figurative language devices (simile/metaphor/personification) again in the context of something he has read perhaps. Lots of modelled writing. Use an image of an interesting setting. Write a "dull" description, then spend time together uplevelling it and incorporating collected vocab/figurative language to make it more descriptive.
Is he a perfectionist?? Sometimes high flyers can struggle to "take risks" in their writing because they're not used to getting things "wrong" and don't want to risk using more interesting vocab or sentence structures because they're more likely to make mistakes. Might be worth doing some growth mindset gubbins to work on resilience and understanding that challenging yourself, making mistakes and taking risks are all important parts of the learning process.
I find similes, metaphors and alliteration a good descriptive technique. Maybe try and get him used to the idea of silly slithery snake and the sun shone like a gold chocolate coin etc. He might not understand the terminology but might find it fun to think of words starting with the same letter? Or comparisons?
My ds is exactly the same, OP. Good with reading, grammar and spelling, but very weak/reluctant writer.
We use pobble to practice writing.
Also do article-a-day from readworks. Read very short article and write down things he learned/ found interesting. With this, he writes down new vocabulary he leaned from passage on his notebook, and try to write his own sentence with it. It is a reading comprehension site, but this site can be used for more. Both free sites.
Get him to use more specific descriptive verbs and an extra bit of detail alongside his basic adjective-noun phrase. E.g. The red dragon
flew soared across the [darkening] sky.
Yes, as Trifle says, I am always asking my ds to find the different word for the words he used, like fly -> soar. We use thesaurus quite a lot. ( Electronic one are easy to use.)
What does he read? If he reads good quality literature with great descriptions then his writing will improve naturally. It's always easy for any teacher to spot the avid readers from the quality of their wtit6ing.
Bringon he prefers diary of a wimpy kid, dragon series , captain under pants ect - he has read lots of Roald Dahl but also I've ask him to read classics such as railway children, Alice in wonderland and Treasure Island - but he wouldn't choose these himself and although he will finish as once he gets into it he likes it- I can see the enjoyment is not the same as the other books he chooses.
Do you think drama will help with writing ? Again he likes the odd drama session at school ready for a school play, but he wouldn't want drama classes, as he prefers sport and music which he does, but I'm think a term or two of drama might help him express himself more.what do you think?
Tilly I wouldn't say he is a perfectionist / but he can be a bit too competitive. But that's something we are are working on. The resilience aspect - could you give me more ideas. I'm someone who had a tough upbringing - in local authority care - etc so I taught myself resilience and to be self reliant - but I don't remember anybody teaching me these skills - I kind of had to just accept knock backs iyswim. So I'm not sure how to teach it. Thanks
Alice in Wonderland and Treasure Island are a bit too much for a Y4 I would have thought. Not very enjoyable really by today's standards.
Why don't you go to the local library and have a browse through the books for his age. Ask the librarian for guidance. There is no need to read classics at all because they are not necessarily written for the enjoyment of a modern Y4 child. There are great adventure books, spy books, funny books, and books with gripping stories which he would enjoy more. The more he reads, the better his vocabulary will be.
My son is finishing y2 and is reluctant to express himself in writing. I think partly it stems from being left handed and his historically finding it difficult but this issue could impact a right handed child who still struggles to get images from their mind out through their pencil.
The other issue is one of confidence. My ds is self conscious in other ways.. doesn't like to be out of uniform on dress up days. He doesn't like to 'let go' of himself publicly.
I don't have specific advice for a child of your sons age but I'll tell you what I'm planning to do to help my ds.
Over the summer, I plan to write a sentence a day with him and then elaborate on it together as suggested by previous posters to incorporate alliteration, simile, personification etc.
I don't plan to make it an onerous task. Short sentences are fine etc.
Then I'm going to collect the sentences and use them to make a funny nonsensical story.
My ds likes to read to our cat. I'm going to start our sentences probably by describing the cat eg: "my cat drools" to add "when he is happy" to add details of what his drool smells like (which is a talking point in our house!) But how we love him anyway etc. When you rest your head on my cat you can hear his purr "it sounds like X" or 'his fur is always on my uniform' etc.
I hope this discussion of something he loves combined with creating a story or a love letter for the cat will help.
Finally, my son loves rap music and although we struggle to find clean versions of rap to listen to, I think I'll be able to adapt cuts of lyrics to discuss with my ds. He loves Eminem's Lose Yourself and there are a lot of examples in there that I can tweak his interest in. Eg:
"His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
There's vomit on his sweater already, mom's spaghetti" (from Eminem's Lose Yourself)
Rap is also an example of how there is nothing wrong with short factual sentences that build on each other to make a story that way.
I might struggle to find many appropriate rap songs so might try Katy Perry's Roar!
I hope that helps. Sorry my post is so long but it's difficult to share the ideas without elaborating.
Piggyback sorry I did read your very helpful response at the tune but forgot to reply -
Even now the suggestions are helping us in year 5
Thank you all
It’s amazing and even the most reticent kids love it.
Love a mummy of a year 4 dd and an English teacher xx
I have a year 4 ds. Can I recommend some books for that age?
Michael Morpurgo books are very popular and well written, some are a bit heavy so just check the blurb and see which would suit your ds - there are loads to choose from!
My ds enjoyed the Enid Blyton famous five series even though I thought they were a bit dated now.
David Baddiel has written some interesting and funny books for kids, ds is getting his latest one for Christmas.
If anyone wants a good book to help their kids with confidence and resilience I’m reading
“Being Me” by Wendy Moss I’m working through it with ds, it’s very good!
Maybe he just has a very clean pared down style. He may have a more mathematical/ scientific bent. Nothing worse than lots of flowery pointless adjectives. How is his plotting, characterisation, structure and pacing? All far more important than linguistic twiddles. If he has found his style and it works for him, I'd encourage him to go with it. Nothing worse than feeling self conscious about writing and loosing your flow.
You say his maths are high. I often find children who are good at Maths have a very logical way of writing as that is how they think. Some of my best writers would be considered the weaker children but they head off into a lovely imaginative story as often they are dreamers with good imagination. Maybe read lots to him as you can then allow him to access higher vocabularly. But please do not stress this to him as kills the fun.
I have 2 dbs who were amazingly good at Maths Physics etc but every weekend when they had creative essays to write, as teens, l would have to go through their essays to spark them up as they were painful to read.
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