Describing Settings and Characters

This checklist was created with fifth graders working on realistic fiction pieces. We were fleshing out our character and setting descriptions, but students were only sticking with basics like physical appearance what they could see on the outside. I wanted them to go deeper and really think about how many different elements made up a character or a setting.

3 Develop Settings And Characters

  1. I drew the images on sticky notes in advance.
  2. I called students over and read this description: Tracy was a taller than the other girls in her class. She had curly black hair and new, red glasses. “What do you guys think?”
  3. They all agreed that the writer used lots of describing words.
  4. Then, I read this sentence: When Charles smiled his mouth seemed to have too many teeth and his chubby cheeks squished his eyes shut. The students really liked that description.
  5. “These description are fabulous, but what are they isolated to?” Instantly, I got the response that these only focused on what people looked like.
  6. I told them that I loved their used of description. It was powerful. Today, however; was about expanding our description beyond just the surface. “Tell me more than just the outside. How does Tracy feel? What is she known for? Drop descriptive hints that not only tell me the outside, but give me a peek on the inside.”
  7. Then, I built the lists. “When you write, see if you can check off a few of these. Now I don’t want these all packed into one or two sentences, but sprinkle them throughout. Reveal bits and pieces as you write. When you are stuck and need more, look at this chart and see if you can add rich description by describing one of these elements.”
  8. With that, I sent students off to dig through their notebooks to see where they could flesh out characters or expand settings.

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Article written by Dr. Rozlyn Linder

This is the official blog of Dr. Roz Linder, an academic, K-12 Language Arts Specialist, former elementary school teacher, high school journalism teacher, and all-around rabble rouser. I am interested in how we equip students to compete in a global community that grows increasingly flatter every millisecond and the practical application of communication pedagogy and Common Core standards.Situated at the intersection of cultural, racial, social, and digital literacy, my blog is all about fostering and supporting the recognition that we don’t teach in your grandad’s America and being happy about that. Let's stop telling students what to think or believe, but prepare students to think critically and often.

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