Session 5: Edit and expand writing examples

Session 4: Describing with all the senses

Intro

Work through the activity with your child or set them off to do it independently. This session is about using their description skills and different senses to edit and expand descriptive writing examples. There are opportunities for extending their learning through more interesting colour description and using alliteration and repetition.

Activity 1: Edit and expand description examples

Having done one of the senses activities in the previous session, look again at these descriptive sentences from famous books. Choose one or two of the sentences to focus on.

  • Which senses did the author use in their description?
  • Can you imagine using another sense in the description? For example, what do you imagine Arrietty can smell or touch as she walks through the blades of grass? She is a borrower and therefore very small. The blades of grass would be huge to her.
  • Add in or change an interesting adverb. You can make up your own extension to the description to add in movement if you need to. 

 

Here is my edit and expansion of the description of Arrietty climbing amongst the blades of grass as an example.

Original quote:

Cautiously she moved towards the bank and climbed a little nervously in amongst the green blades. (From The Borrowers by Mary Norton)

My edit:

Bravely she moved towards the steep bank and scrambled quickly in amongst the towering green blades. She could hear the wind rushing though the grass and feel its strength as it nearly knocked her over. Drops of dew fell down heavily on her head, soaking her from top to bottom. When she looked up, Arrietty could see a patchwork of blue sky and white clouds above her.

Below are the other quotes from books for you to choose from. If you prefer you can use any other piece of description you have come across in a book to add a sense description to.

Arrietty, rolling the potato before her from the storehouse down the dusty lane under the floorboards, kicked it ill-temperedly so that it rolled rather fast into their kitchen. (From The Borrowers by Mary Norton)

 

The sinister kidnappers glared at the children, and the children, terrified, stared back. (From Monster Mission by Eva Ibbotson)

 

He gazed longingly at the famous and dreaded medicine cupboard (From George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl)

 

There was a tremendous waterfall halfway along the river – a steep cliff over which the water curled and rolled in a solid sheet, and then went crashing down into a boiling churning whirlpool of froth and spray. (From Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl)

 

Activity 2: More interesting colour description

Katherine Rundell has some interesting ways to describe colour in her book The Explorer in a way that adds more meaning to what she is describing.

Some examples:

He looked out towards the river and the filing-cabinet-grey sky.

(Using the phrase filing-cabinet-grey adds the idea of it being very boring as well as being more interesting than just saying grey)

The light inside was dark green, an underwater, sunken-treasure colour.

By expanding the description from dark green to say it is an underwater, sunken-treasure colour, Rundell has added a layer of mystery and excitement to the place being described.

 

See if you can add in an interesting colour description to bring more meaning to your description. For example, you could expand the quote from George’s Marvellous Medicine to say:

George stared longingly at the famous and dreaded medicine cabinet. The cabinet was a noisy red that shouted of danger and excitement.

By adding a description of the the colour of the cabinet as a noisy red and saying it shouted of danger and excitement, I have captured some of the experience that George felt as he looked at the cabinet and thought about what he was going to do. It is a dangerous experiment. The temptation and longing George feels makes the cabinet seem as though demanding his attention by shouting. Red seemed like the right colour for danger, excitement and loudness.

 

Here is an update of my Arrietty description to include some interesting colour description:

Bravely she moved towards the steep bank and scrambled quickly in amongst the towering green blades. She could hear the wind rushing though the grass and feel its strength as it nearly knocked her over. Drops of dew fell down heavily on her head, soaking her from top to bottom. When she looked up, Arrietty could see a patchwork of deep-sea-blue sky and galleon-sail-white clouds above her.

I chose to describe the colours using the images of the sail on a big galleon ship in deep sea waters on an adventure, to reflect the adventure Arrietty is experiencing in a big, wide world like a vast ocean.

 

Extended learning opportunity: Alliteration and repetition

To add impact to your description, try using alliteration or repetition with your adjectives or adverbs.

Alliteration is where a series of words all begin with the same sound. For example: Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper.

 

There are lots of different types of repetition, but here we will focus on where you repeat the same word or phrase.

For example, the introduction to Funnybones by Alan and Janet Ahlberg:

On a dark dark hill

there was a dark dark town.

In the dark dark town

there was a dark dark street.

In the a dark dark street

there was a dark dark house.

Authors use these tools of alliteration and repetition to add emphasis and significance to a part of a description, to make it more powerful and to unite ideas together. Alliteration and repetition can also be used to build tension such as in the Funnybones example above, add to a dramatic moment, and create a certain atmosphere or reading experience. We will explore this more through the following examples and activities.

Alliteration

Examples of alliteration:

‘What you did in my assembly was disgraceful, disrespectful and downright disgusting!’

(From Who Let The Gods Out? by Maz Evans)

In this example, the character’s point is made more forcefully by the alliteration.

 

Moonlit sea and star-strewn sky.

Taking deep breaths that filled his nostrils with the tang of salt and seaweed, he struck out for the shimmering, shrinking light now moving deeper into the cliff.

(Both from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling)

Alliteration using the ‘s’ and ‘sh’ sounds in these examples adds a poetic feel to the description, enticing the reader into the action and making it interesting to read. The way Rowling uses alliteration in the second quote heightens the drama and increases tension through the rhythm it creates.

 

Repetition

Examples of repetition:

Endless, endless hunger

(From The Explorer by Katherine Rundell) 

The repetition of the word endless makes sentence longer and more drawn out, like the experience of hunger is drawn out and seems endless. It emphasises that the hunger felt by the character is an overwhelming feeling, blocking all others.

 

Elliot Hooper got up at 7.30 a.m. as normal, made his mum breakfast at 8.15 a.m. as normal, went to school at 8.55 a.m. as normal and was in the headmaster’s office by 9.30 a.m., which was, in fact, slightly later than normal.

(From Who Let The Gods Out? by Maz Evans)

Evans emphasises the routine normality of what is happening by repeating the word normal. It also provides a bit of humour with the last line.

 

An example of using alliteration to heighten the drama as well as build a picture and create a rhythm for the reader:

The ice blew in with frosty frozen fingers that seeped and sprawled and sucked the warmth from everything it touched.

An example of using repetition to add humour by over-stating a point:

She came downstairs wearing her favourite posh dress. It was a frilly dress. It was a very frilly dress. It was so frilly it was silly. If frilliness was a sport this dress would be Olympic champion. If frilliness was art it would be a masterpiece sold for millions. If frilliness was a cake it would be star baker on every episode of Bake Off. It was a frill-tastic, frilled-to-the-brim, frill-fest and the most ridiculous thing I had ever seen.

 

You can see from these different examples that alliteration and repetition create a rhythm with words which draws the reader into the description and leaves a strong impression. You can use these writing tools to make your descriptions powerful and enable the reader to feel the atmosphere you create. They make your writing more interesting and memorable. They also make your writing better to read. Like art or music, you can make your writing enjoyable to experience.

 

Your turn 

Have a go at writing a sentence using alliteration and/or repetition. You can make it about whatever you like, but there are some ideas below if you want some inspiration.

Write a description about:

A storm brewing or in full force

Fire – warming and cosy or scary and raging

Flowers blooming

A boat sailing

Finding something – or someone – you lost

Being on a plane coming into land on a desert island

A bird rustling in a hedge or tree, foraging and building a nest

Opening a mystery box

A waterfall

Creeping through a haunted house

 

Read your finished work aloud to experience it by listening and not just reading in your head – like it is an audiobook or part of a narration on a film. How does your description sound when read aloud? Think about the rhythm you create and how you build up tension or add emphasis.

Keep a look out for how senses are used in description and for alliteration and repetition in the books you read. Reflect on how they affect your experience of reading it. Read some aloud to hear the rhythm and effect they create. Keep a note of any you really like and use them to inspire your own writing.

 

Session 6: Write your best descriptive paragraph