Descriptive Writing in This I Believe
Here is the recap from what happened in class Thursday, February 4th.
Looking back on Draft 1 of our This I Believe
Today was all about looking back at our first drafts of our “This I Believe” pieces. The reading for the class was Not Every Sentence Can Be Great But Every Sentence Should Be Good by Cynthia Martin, which provided an excellent bridge into the class activities.
The first part of class was dedicated to some alone time with the audio feedback that Dr. Benko emailed to each of us. With headphones, we all listened to our feed back while thinking over and answering the questions Dr. Benko had for us.
- What do you hear me (Benko) saying (in her audio file) in terms of “what’s good” and “work on this”?
- Where if anywhere do you need help?
- What’s next?
After this we came back together as a group to discuss the audio feedback. For the most part everyone liked this form of feedback, but we also discussed how it might feel a little uncomfortably personal. Our discussion was important to understand the pedagogy behind this format of feedback. Also stemming from this discussion were some general ideas to keep in mind while working on our This I Believe pieces.
- Consider whether your belief is at beginning or end
- Include more general description (we discuss descriptive writing next)
- Describe the important people in your TIB
- Use second person carefully and thoughtfully
Discussion: Descriptive Writing
On that note, we transitioned to a discussion on the fundamental components of descriptive writing. What makes up descriptive writing? As a class, we came up with a quick list of things that we felt were essential to descriptive writing.
- adjectives- have meaningful describers
- no cliché- make the writing seem thoughtful and unique
- metaphors- help the audience visualize
- accuracy- be precise but know that but truth is relative
- hyperbole- create an image but don’t over do it
- audience- what do they know or need to know?
- sensory appeals- see, smell, taste, hear, and feel the story
With this list Dr. Benko also noted that these items exist on a continuum, there isn’t necessarily one exact way to write with any of these different tools.
Activities: Wonderful and Scarf
With the idea of Descriptive writing in mind, we did two activities starting in our small groups and then as a class.
The first activity was the “wonderful” activity. This was a sort of challenge to find a more concrete and sensory way to describe things, instead of abstractly. For example instead of saying the “wonderful snack” you might say “sticky, buttery popcorn” or “hot, cheesy nachos”. In our groups, Dr. Benko challenged us to find concrete description of love, which we decided as a class was something too complex to describe in a word or short phrase. The point of this activity was to show us how we can write more concretely to create a more descriptive piece of writing.
The second activity was the “scarf” activity. This activity had us individually describing the scarf that Dr. Benko wore to class on our own, then coming together as a small group to create a single sentence to describe the scarf. One group wrote:
The sheer fabric that hung around her neck contained a diamond pattern composed of navy, royal blue, and snow white. The end of the fabric was precisely decorated with silver sequins and rhinestones and variegated fringes.
After this, we came together as a class to find what words we felt were the most significant in describing the scarf. The goal of this activity was to show that, if you focus on a single sentence, it can become much stronger and more descriptive, and paint a better image for your reader.
The main thing to take away from class was firstly what we learned about descriptive writing, and then also our discussion over feedback. However another important thing that Benko mentioned multiple times was that our This I Believe pieces are blocks of wood, and we will continue to chisel them into fine sculptures.
So for next time in addition to Draft 2 of TIB, we have a couple readings: Smagorinsky Ch. 3, and a quick skim through of the other Smagorinsky chapters to prepare for midterm discussion. And check out this article with your free time!
Thanks for reading,