My son is a 4th grader this year and is learning how to be a better writer. He’s enthralled by all the elaboration techniques available these days. Things sure have changed, y’know. We used to study/teach similes, metaphors, etc. out of an English textbook. His enlightened teacher doesn’t use a text, but chooses activities like showing movie clips and allowing him to respond in writing, giving the perfect authentic opportunity to practice these elaboration techniques. We are even throwing out “trash words” from our daily communication. He’s growing as a writer and a thinker. I like that!
My own students struggle with basic reading and writing skills. They are simply trying to formulate a basic sentence, so the idea of trying to get them to expand on their ideas is daunting at best. Cop out? Nah – I work with very special young people whose strengths are not always of the academic sort. We need to embrace the different learners out there who will undoubtedly add to our society in their own unique way. Yes, some are meant to be thinkers and some to be workers. Some to build, some to create, and some to write. There’s not a darn thing wrong with that.
So what are the elaboration techniques my son is being encouraged to use? Your basic literary elements are there: simile, metaphor, personification, hyperbole, but he is also encouraged to create “thought shots” which share his feelings and to hook them with a really good beginning sentence. Sometimes it’s contrived; other times it’s pretty good!
Will he be a famous writer? Probably not, but he sure has discovered a new appreciation for the written words. And for that I am truly grateful.