How to produce descriptive essays

How to produce descriptive essays

Activities to organize ideas

Children learn slowly to organize information within a description. To help them, activities can be carried out in which the planning of the essay is partly guided, so as to be able to acquire these linguistic-conceptual skills gradually.

First of all, it is important that the description activities have a clear communicative purpose and are not boring exercises aimed exclusively at receiving an evaluation by the teacher. We need to make it describe to do something, and the purpose of the communicative task (or task) will determine how much and what information is needed and in what order. This means above all that those who listen or read the description must not know the scene described, but must use the essay to reconstruct it as faithfully as possible.

A screen can be placed between the two speakers, between the one that describes an image, a video or a concrete scenario, and the other that tries to reconstruct them only on the basis of what they hear. The writing allows to distance the moment of production from that of the reception, for which the screen does not serve: a child or some children will describe a scene in writing and their companions, reading the essays later, will have to rebuild it, for example by arranging objects or of the figurines on a background (material or digitized on a computer), or making a drawing, or even representing the described actions in a theatrical way. In this way the students, passing systematically from the role of emitter to that of recipient, will realize the importance of certain information – such as those relating to the global picture, which allow the various referents to be placed in the absolute three-dimensional space before describing the relations relative to each other – or how it is more useful to formulate specific projective relationships (right / left, front / back, etc.) with respect to generic topological relationships (near, next), or that it is essential to describe the properties of the referents (appearance, color, shape) when there are several with similar characteristics.

Students must also be made aware of the need to organize information in a systematic way.

It is possible to elicit group or class discussions on possible criteria, thus creating alternative ladders, not only with verbal means, but also with graphic expedients (colors, symbols, lines of space and time). At some point, before or after the spontaneous discussion of organizational criteria, the teacher can also provide pre-packaged information gathering schemes to guide students. You can vary the collection criteria, to observe the effect they produce: for example, changing the perspective from fixed to mobile (as I see a fixed object in front of me or as I see it turning around it, as I see it from above or from front), or first describe things and then people or vice versa, starting from the center or from one of the corners, and so on.

This discussion on the organizational criteria can also start from a essay that has already been written, which will be broken down into many sentences or blocks reproduced on as many strips of paper, so that the students will have to discuss the order in which to put it back together, finally comparing their proposals with the original essay.

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