'Bridle' Your Imagination With Lists
Today's Snack: What's on most students' "wish list" for after-school
snacks? Something sweet, of course. How about making yellow cupcakes and
frosting them with ready-made chocolate fudge frosting? To have at least SOME
nutrition with this treat, have a tall glass of ice-cold milk.
Pencil or pen | old
one piece of scrap
paper and one piece of lined paper
Project the story
prompts on a big screen or print out the lower
part of this Treat and
share with students
Imagine that your imagination is a horse. It's big!
It's beautiful! It's powerful! But it won't take you where you want to go
unless you put a saddle and a bridle on it.
Just as we need to guide a horse in a purposeful
direction, we have to guide our imagination to produce the ideas and details
that can help us write a good descriptive story or essay.
A great way to do that is to make lists. The more
details you can imagine and get written down, as quickly as they come to you,
the more choices you will have for content when you choose what to include, and
exclude, in your descriptive story.
But when you're thinking of what to include in your
story, if you just write down whatever comes to mind, your ideas are not likely
to be focused. Making a list ahead of time, and sticking to the purpose for
your descriptive writing piece, is much more likely to produce the most
interesting and relevant details.
Let's say you are going to describe your trip to the
rodeo to see a buckin' bronco competition. Here are some details you might put
on your list before you write:
Cowboys and cowgirls
Dust kicked up
Getting bucked off
Bruised rear end
Horses kick and buck
How cowboys stay on
Winner gets a belt
Win prize money
Are those enough details to "flesh out" a colorful story,
that makes your reader feel he or she was right there with you, watching the
Lists help you keep organized. Lists help you remember
details you might otherwise forget. You don't have to use everything on a story
list in your descriptive story or essay. In fact, it's the mark of a good
writer if you think up more things on a list than you can possibly use in your
if you just sat down to write a story about going to the rodeo without a list,
it would be hard to stay on track and make the description purposeful.
like guiding a horse around a race track or across a jumps course. If you take
aim with your imagination, hold the reins, and RIDE it, using an organization
tool such as a list, then you're much more likely to write a successful
descriptive story or essay.
Now try it for yourself. Choose one of the
descriptive writing prompts listed below. On the piece of scratch paper, start
writing a list of all the details that come to mind that have something to do
with that prompt. For example, what vocabulary words come to mind? List them. What
colors, shapes, textures? What do people's faces look like? What place names or
people's names? List ways that the people or objects in your prompt connect to
Back in the Day
You are holding a family photograph. As you look at the photograph
you are suddenly transported back into the time and setting of the picture. Imagine
something that happened right at that time the picture was taken. Describe the
picture, and explain the interesting things that happened on the day the
picture was taken. You might want to try this in the format of a letter from
you to another family member.
Far and Away
You have just arrived in a place that is far away, and everyone
back home can't wait to hear what it is like. Write a clear description of this
place -- whether real or imaginary -- to give your readers a vivid picture of
what it is like there. Consider writing this in the format of a postcard, and
you can draw an illustration where the photograph might be in a real postcard.
Write a complete description of the parts of a living cell, how
the weather moves water, how humans use gravity, or other scientific process to
show your understanding of the topic. You can include an illustration with
labels if you wish.
Having It Made
Think about someone you know who is successful. It might be
someone you know, or someone you've never met, but know about and admire. The
person doesn't necessarily have to be rich and famous. In what ways is this
person successful? Describe one or more ways in detail. Include details that
explain and describe how that person attained success. You might create this
descriptive essay in the form of a full-page newspaper ad celebrating this
person. You can draw a picture of the person to go with your text.