Today the grade 5s talked about how word choice improves descriptive writing. We came up with some verbs and adjectives and then tried to find more interesting synonyms. We looked at how to use thesauri to find synonyms (both a book and online) and how we need to look up definitions of new words in the dictionary to make sure we are not using a word that doesn’t fit.
The girl walked to the park.
walked – sauntered, strolled, strutted, marched. Stalk would not be an appropriate choice, although is was listed as a synonyms on theraurus.com.
The girl strutted angrily to the neighbourhood park to meet her soon to be ex-friend.
Adjectives can be boring too – like nice. Very boring.
nice – cordial, amiable, kind, charming, considerate, courteous.
To illustrate how descriptive writing can be very vivid I read an excerpt from Rauld Dahl’s “The Twits”:
Mr Twit was one of these very hairy-faced men. The whole of his face except for his forehead, his eyes and nose, was covered with thick hair. The stuff even sprouted in revolting tufts out of his nostrils and ear-holes.
Mr Twit felt that this hairiness made him look terrifically wise and grand. But in truth he was neither of these things. Mr Twit was a twit. He was born a twit. And now at the age of sixty, he was a bigger twit than ever.
The hair on Mr Twit’s face didn’t grow smooth and matted as it does on most hairy-faced men. It grew in spikes that stuck out straight like the bristles of a nailbrush.
And how often did Mr Twit wash this bristly nailbrushy face of his?
The answer is NEVER, not even on Sundays.
He hadn’t washed it for years.
As you know, an ordinary unhairy face like yours or mine simply gets a bit smudgy if it is not washed often enough, and there’s nothing so awful about that.
But a hairy face is a very different matter. Things cling to hairs, especially food. Things like gravy go right in among the hairs and stay there. You and I can wipe our smooth faces with a flannel and we quickly look more or less all right again, but the hairy man cannot do that.
We can also, if we are careful, eat our meals without spreading food all over our faces. But not so the hairy man. Watch carefully next time you see a hairy man eating his lunch and you will notice that even if he opens his mouth very wide, it is impossible for him to get a spoonful of beef-stew or ice-cream and chocolate sauce into it without leaving some of it on the hairs.
Mr Twit didn’t even bother to open his mouth wide when he ate. As a result (and because he never washed) there were always hundreds of bits of old breakfasts and lunches and suppers sticking to the hairs around his face. They weren’t big bits, mind you, because he used to wipe those off with the back of his hand or on his sleeve while he was eating. But if you looked closely (not that you’d ever want to) you would see tiny little specks of dried-up scrambled eggs stuck to the hairs, and spinach and tomato ketchup and fish fingers and minced chicken livers and all the other disgusting things Mr Twit liked to eat.
If you looked closer still (hold your noses ladies and gentlemen), if you peered deep into the moustachy bristles sticking over his upper lip, you would probably see much larger objects that had escaped the wipe of his hand, things that had been there for months and months, like a piece of maggoty green cheese or a mouldy old cornflake or even the slimy tail of a tinned sardine.
Because of all this, Mr Twit never went really hungry. By sticking out his tongue and curling it sideways to explore the hairy jungle around his mouth, he was always able to find a tasty morsel here and there to nibble on.
What I am trying to tell you is that Mr Twit was a foul and smelly old man.
He was also an extremely horrid old man, as you will find out in a moment.
This passage never fails to disgust people. Why? Because the reader (or listener) can vividly visualize Mr. Twit’s disgusting beard. Yuck. This is an excellent example of how important word choice and descriptive writing are to becoming a good writer.
After all this the grade 5s applied this to their weekly paragraph. They had to write about a favourite present so they used a graphic organizer to brainstorm interesting, active verbs; descriptive adjectives; and specific nouns.
In math the grade 4s and the grade 5s we worked on a problem to highlight different strategies for solving a problem. The problems were fairly simple addition problems. I wanted the focus to be on the problem solving process as well as using more than one strategy to solve the same problem. I also wanted to see if they would choose to use the standard algorithm (the procedure we learned to add – carry the one, etc.). I wasn’t surprised to see that many of them did use the standard algorithm, here’s the kicker, they had to explain it to use it. Some could explain why they carried (I prefer the word regroup because it’s more accurate) a digit to the top but many could not explain it. Here is an example of using the algorithm with an explanation:
It needs to be completed by adding up the tens so get a sum of 67. I will only allow students to use this if they really understand what they are doing. If they don’t understand, then it is only useful for very simple problems.
Tomorrow we will share all our strategies and create a book of adding strategies. I saw some really good thinking and strategies which will be posted tomorrow or Friday. In the meantime, here are photos of the grade 5s working (grade 4s photos tomorrow).