For the last 2 weeks we have been covering descriptive writing. While this is classified as a seperate text type in most textbooks, it is rare to find a piece that just describes. Description may form a part of a narrative, a recount or even an exposition, but I have yet to see a purely descriptive piece- in the sense that something is described just for the sake of describing it. I will return to this idea a little later. For now, keep an open mind, and understand that when we talk about various aspects of language, it is actually an artificial categorization of linguistic elements. In reality, we conceive, perceive and receive many different levels of language and thought at the same time.
I started out by reading to you a passage on Achilles the tortoise from MF&OA, while you noted and recorded various descriptive tools such as adjectives, images and actions. There was some confusion over the placement of certain phrases in these 3 categories, but by and large we were able to decide on a primary location for most of the phrases we picked out.
Then it was your turn, and I had a lot of fun walking around listening to you read to each other. Some classes came up with very good phrases from the descriptive passages they chose to read from the book, while other classes had starting problems. Most managed to get the hang of it eventually. When it came to the sharing part, again there was some variation between classes. Some classes had a very fruitful sharing session.
This part of the unit was mainly for building up vocabulary and getting you in the mood. The second part involved more explicit instruction about structure and organization- once more it was Alethia Chan and “Just Write” to the rescue as we zoomed in on 3 steps to writing effective descriptions: (a) deciding on a dominant impression (b) providing vivid supporting details and (c) ensuring logical and coherent organization. We looked at a sample essay from last year’s SA2 and noted how it fit in with these 3 criteria.
And finally came the writing. By the end of this week, all of you will have experienced the joys of sitting down and writing for 55 minutes non-stop. No excuse for writer’s block- the question was given to you a week ago. The question itself looks simple enough- describe a person or animal you love very much. But the devil, as they say, is in the details. You will need all the elements we covered in class to produce a good essay worthy of an upper secondary student.
A final note: I mentioned at the beginning of this post that descriptions rarely stand alone. Look at the essay question I gave you. Even that carries the implication that you have to explain, through your description, why you love this person or animal.
Next week we move on to personal recounts.