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Describing a Person: Adding Details

Lesson 3 [of the WriteShop curriculum] presents a unique set of problems for students. They must describe a person in detail and place the subject in a setting; yet they must not end up writing a narrative, or story. Even with WriteShop’s careful guidelines and instructions, many still end up focusing on the activity and neglecting the actual description of their subject. But it’s good to let your kids struggle with the initial writing process. It helps them wrestle with ideas and words, and it reminds them of the importance of brainstorming adequately and effectively.

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Once your students have had the chance to brainstorm and write the sloppy copy, edit it, and write a first revision, they’ll be ready for helpful feedback. If they’re like most kids, the chances are good that they’ll need to add more description. How can you help them consider details they may never have thought about? Start here! Encourage your kids to improve description in a couple of areas you’ve indicated as weak. Attach a copy of the tips (below) to your Teacher’s Writing Skills Checklist. These ideas will help them improve their paragraph as they think of more concrete ways to describe their subject’s appearance.

And here’s a thought: you don’t have to wait till they turn in their first revision to introduce these ideas.

  1. Use the tips as teaching tools when you’re presenting the lesson. Discuss the various aspects of describing a person before letting the kids loose to brainstorm.
  2. Or once the sloppy copy has been written and edited, give this list of ideas to stimulate creativity and to help the students write a meatier first revision.

It will be impossible (and unnecessary) for your child to include all the descriptive elements listed below. After all, the composition is limited to one little paragraph! But you can certainly expect that paragraph to sparkle with a few additional, well-chosen details. What really matters is this: Regardless of when or how you approach it, improved description will result. And after all, isn’t that the point?

Face Shape

  • Square
  • Oval
  • Round
  • Triangular
  • Heart-shaped

Skin/Face/Complexion (Complexion is the natural appearance and color of the skin, especially of the face; e.g. Mary has a soft, creamy complexion.)

  • Freckled: sprinkled or covered with light brown spots

  • Rosy: pink-cheeked; fair complexion that glows with a hint of pink

  • Ruddy: skin that has a healthy reddish tint; may have the appearance of sunburn

  • Tanned: skin with a healthy golden-brown tint

  • Wrinkled: full of or covered with lines or loose folds of skin; often associated with age

  • Other skin-related adjectives: pale, spotless, silky, smooth, creamy, baby-soft, glowing, paper-thin or translucent (as with a very old person); rough, callused, dry

Eyes

General

  • Brown-eyed mother, bright-eyed sister, wide-eyed child

Eye expressions:

  • Adj. eyes: piercing, mesmerizing, sad, sorrowful, tear-filled, gentle, sympathetic, warm, compassionate, expressive, twinkling, lively, dancing, laughing

Eye Shape and Size

  • Large, small, almond-shaped, round, slanted, squinty, crinkly

Mouth/Lips

  • Thin lips, full lips, pouting lips, pursed lips (puckered up, like when someone is concentrating)
  • Laugh, smile, beam, grin, frown, grimace, scowl

Hair

Texture/Appearance

  • wavy, curly, straight, spiky, stiff, buzzed, shaved, parted, neatly-combed, tamed, long, short, cropped

Hair Styles

  • braids, ponytail, pigtails, bun, twist, bob, ringlets, flip, bangs, buzz
  • layered, feathered, chopped, gelled, spiked, slicked down

Lots of hair

  • thick, full, lustrous, bushy, coarse, wiry (stiff)

Little hair

  • thin, scraggly, fine, baby-fine, wispy, limp, flat, balding, bald, bald spot, receding hairline (gradual loss of hair at the front of the head)

Treated hair

  • permed, dyed, bleached, highlighted, weaved

Hair colors

  • black, brunette, brown, chestnut-brown, honey-blond, blond, golden-blond, ash-blond, auburn, red, strawberry-blond, gray, silver, white, salt-and-pepper

Facial Hair

  • Beard, goatee, mustache, sideburns
  • Five o’clock shadow: new beard growth, shadowy in appearance, that can be seen late in the day on the jaw, chin, or cheek area (also known as stubble)
  • Adjectives: bearded, unshaven, clean-shaven, trimmed, neatly-trimmed

Clothing

  • Fabric: denim, twill, wool, cotton, tweed, polyester, corduroy, fleece, spandex, leather
  • Bottoms: jeans, cargo pants, flat-front pants, pleated pants, slacks, trousers, overalls, sweatpants, crop pants, capris, skirt, culottes, shorts, board shorts
  • Tops: sport shirt, dress shirt, polo shirt, button-down shirt, tank top, blouse, long-sleeve, short-sleeve, sleeveless, collared, T-shirt, sweatshirt, hoodie, pullover, sweater, cardigan
  • Other clothing: dress, uniform, costume, pajamas, bathrobe, robe, vest, jacket, blazer, coat, socks, stockings, gloves, hat, cap, shoes, boots, slippers, sandals, flip-flops, heels, pumps

Sentence Starters Describing Clothes

  • Smartly dressed in (name of garment), she…
  • Casually attired in (name of garment), Jolene…
  • Simply clad in (name of garment), Mark…
  • Dennis sports a (name of garment)…

Kim Kautzer and Debbie Oldar are the authors of WriteShop, and incremental writing program for grades 6-12. For more information about WriteShop, visit their website at WriteShop.com.

Copyright © 2004 Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

Kim Kautzer

Kim is a veteran homeschooler, author, and conference speaker. Kim loves to help parents feel more confident about teaching writing. With a heart to inspire and equip apprehensive parents, Kim encourages homeschoolers that teaching writing is much more objective than they think, and that with the right tools at their fingertips they can lead and motivate their struggling writers. Award-winning WriteShop, her unique and successful writing program, has been honored as one of Cathy Duffy’s 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum. Kim and her husband Jim homeschooled for 15 years. Two of their three children have graduated from Christian universities, and their son is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in theology. The Kautzers enjoy their passel of grandchildren and their sometimes-empty nest in Southern California. Kim blogs about writing at www.writeshop.com/blog.

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