"Show, don't tell!" Those oft-repeated words drive detail-oriented writing in all genres. Not only is "showing" writing more memorable, but it also gives credit to one's readers that they have sufficient interpretive skills to figure out what the writer is implying via the chosen details--the kind of interpretive skills associated with CRITICAL THINKING. This lesson teaches student writers to think like their readers, to anticipate what their readers will infer from their descriptions, actions, and dialogue. A writers' workshop setting is the perfect way for students to test whether they have done an adequate job of conveying meaning via vivid images, based on their readers' reactions and interpretations.
By completing this lesson, students will see the power of specific details over lists of boring adjectives to describe characters. Having to create details in writing makes students more detail-oriented overall, too!
Using examples of characterization techniques from the first Harry Potter book, and then from my own original fictional passage, this lesson (like most of my lessons) provides models for emulation as a launching point for creative writing. By focusing students' attention on eliminating "telling" words and including vivid details that will force readers to think, we enable them to expand their own imaginations along with their critical thinking abilities. We teach them how to read like writers, and to write with readers in mind, anticipating their perceptions of the details provided by the writer.
Students will read briefly about literary techniques used for characterization, and then choose from a list of "character sketches" a character for whom they will paint a word portrait. A situation is also suggested in each example, to spark a full scene, rather than a mere description. They will use my "D.A.D. Technique" as the guide to show a short scene on the pages of this 6-page handout. (Print double-side copies for students to save paper, please.)
Revision is part of this lesson--AS IT SHOULD BE PART OF ALL WRITING LESSONS--as well as an exercise of "Reflection." The Reflection involves a paragraph in which students review what they have learned from the writing exercise, using examples from their own work to illustrate the lessons learned. This handout could require two class periods.