"Writing with D.A.D. and M.O.M.: Memorable Techniques for Memorable Writing," by Susan L. Lipson, introduces an easy-to-remember, easy-to-teach pair of acronyms that will guide writers, from age 8 to 18, to create "showing," not "telling," writing. The combination of the D.A.D. and M.O.M. techniques promotes a process-oriented approach to writing. This is a printable handout for use in individual classrooms only. Allow 1-2 class sessions to complete this lesson in a workshop format.
By adding Description, Action, and Dialogue (D.A.D.) whenever possible, scenes come to life in a reader's mind. By reviewing word choices to ensure that they all fit the piece's overall Mood, and that the Order of details flows logically, with only words that truly Matter (M.O.M.), writers will find themselves revising the substance and style of their work--instead of wrongly focusing their initial editing stage on mechanical details best served by the final proofreading stage.
This classroom read-aloud article, full of lively examples, shows how the D.A.D. and M.O.M. techniques apply to both fiction and nonfiction writing, making ALL writing classify as "creative" via powerful, concise word choices.
Reading this article paragraph by paragraph (reader by reader) should take about 15 minutes (allowing for comments or questions between paragraphs). The remaining time for the writing and editing exercises will depend upon how many word pictures each student is assigned to write (at least two would be ideal), and upon the size and enthusiasm level of the other students (kids love to give feedback and applause in a workshop format). Allow 5-10 minutes for writing each word picture. Allow another 30 for public sharing and critiquing, and encourage shy students to allow another person to read their work aloud for them. This first exercise might require more than one class period. Limit discussion to three comments per piece shared aloud.
These exercises can be used within a whole-class workshop format or in small groups. In either case, student feedback should focus on the power (or lack of power) of the word choice--not about whether or not they "liked" the writing.
After trying the D.A.D. Technique, students will spend another 10 minutes (possibly with a partner) rewriting the sample passage to make it as concise, precise, and well-ordered as possible. Then the whole class will discuss for another 10-15 minutes the various edited versions they each came up with, and volunteers will read their edited versions aloud. Students will examine the reasons behind their changes and deletions. Finally, they will compare their edited version to the sample that appears at the bottom of the last page of this handout, and they will discuss how their suggested changes and deletions differed from the sample's.
Since 1999, Lipson's students have incorporated the D.A.D. and M.O.M. stylistic techniques in all genres. These techniques have inspired students to write more clearly, and to write with a heightened consciousness of their reader's perceptions.
Lipson has presented the D.A.D. and M.O.M. Techniques to elementary and middle school classes, to teachers at continuing education workshops, and to her private workshop students throughout San Diego County. Teachers and students always comment on the usefulness of these mnemonic devices and their immediate affect on writing style.
A early version of this article, without lessons, appeared in Lipson's textbook WRITING SUCCESS THROUGH POETRY, published in 2006 by Prufrock Press.