Posted on: February 8, 2021
High levels of literacy developed at a young age will greatly enhance the educational development of a child in all subject areas, not just English. A Descriptosaurus helps teachers to develop these skills by giving children contextualised vocabulary, frameworks, models and descriptive references in an easy-to-use, flexible and engaging format.
In this blog article, author Alison Wilcox explains what a Descriptosaurus is, how it help children plans their creative writing and then goes on to explain in 8 steps how the latest books in the series, Descriptosaurus Story Writing: Language in Action for Ages 5–9 , should be used.
What is a Descriptosaurus?
Whilst a dictionary teaches pupils the meaning of words, and a thesaurus provides alternatives, a Descriptosaurus teaches pupils how to describe a setting, character, creature or pet. Each book is based on three main areas:
- Settings including landscapes, settlements, senses and atmosphere
- Characters including appearance, emotions, personality
- Creatures (including pets) which covers appearance, personalities, abilities
Planning Creative Writing
Planning a piece of writing is an essential part of the writing process. This is often the skill that young pupils fnd the most difficult. However, if they are taught the skills and given an easy-to-use structure from an early age, planning will become a habit that will beneft them as they develop their writing skills and tackle other aspects of the writing process.
Descriptosaurus treats learning to write like learning a new language, and thus the words and phrases are grouped into categories which can be accessed for a particular creative writing task. The design of this new resource for younger pupils has taken this a step further by using a table format which provides different levels of scaffolding to meet the needs of individual pupils as well as different age groups with a clear progression for writing development.
Descriptosaurus Story Writing is intended to complement the highly efective and popular Talk 4 Writing process by providing children with the opportunity to practise diferent parts of the writing process and experiment with the language and structure of a story before writing it as a whole text. It is in essence ‘Writing 4 Writing,’ or ‘Language in Action.’
In this video, Alison summarises the Descriptosaurus model in 8 steps and provides examples of how the book can be used in the classroom.
Step 1: Words
The design of this new resource for younger pupils uses a table format to group nouns and adjectives in complementary categories and the relevant verbs are listed in the same order.
You can cut these tables into strips to collect and experiment with new vocabulary for settings, characters and creatures.
STEP 2: PHRASES
From many years of research and working with young writers, it has become evident that they find the phrases the easiest to remember, merge into sentences and apply in their writing.
In the book a variety of phrases are organised in a table format. These phrase tables can be cut into strips to experiment with different combinations of phrases to construct sentences.
STEP 3: SENTENCE MODELS
The sentences are split into two levels, which can be used either as models appropriate to the age group or to provide pupils with an opportunity to investigate and discuss the next step in their progress.
STEP 4: EXPLORING TEXTS
1.Use the stories to explore and highlight words and phrases for a setting or character description. Collect them in a word notebook.
2.Use the Descriptosaurus chapters on senses to collect additional relevant words and phrases and add them to the word notebook.
STEP 5: EXPLORING AND EXPERIMENTING WITH GRAMMAR
Teaching grammar need not be a tortuous, tedious, decontextualised process of rote learning and endless exercises, identification and labelling. The emphasis should be on knowledge and application of language skills to improve their work – be it spelling, punctuation or grammar.
STEP 6: APPLICATION
For each story there are exercises that give pupils the opportunity to apply the descriptive vocabulary collected from the stories and the Descriptosaurus chapters by substituting their word or phrase choices in the set sentence structure.
These progress to substituting their own, for example, expanded noun phrases, similes, or prepositional phrases.
STEP 7: EXPLORING AND EXPERIMENTING WITH JOINING SENTENCES
There are a variety of main clauses and conjunctions that are organised in a table format.
Cut the tables into strips and allow pupils to experiment with different combinations of main clauses and conjunctions to form appropriate compound and complex sentences.
STEP 8: APPLICATION
Use the sentence stems to practice joining sentences by completing the sentence with their own clause.
By reading the stories, breaking them down, working with them in smaller chunks and innovating the structures, pupils not only acquire knowledge of constructing a sentence and text they become more confident about experimenting and using what they have learned when inventing their own stories.
Descriptosaurus Story Writing: Language in Action for Ages 5–9
Suitable for use with pupils aged 5-9, this book will expand their descriptive vocabulary and help them become enthusiastic and confident writers. It provides the building blocks to get them ready, willing and able to participate fully in the creative writing process.
Descriptosaurus: Supporting Creative Writing for Ages 8–14
Suitable for use with pupils aged 8-14, this book is full of vocabulary to get children's creative juices flowing. It will give them the confidence to use new descriptive language and experiment with sentence structure.
Descriptosaurus: Ghost Stories
Building on the vocabulary and descriptive phrases introduced in Descriptosaurus and within the context of ghost stories, this guide will help children to experiment with their own ghost stories. It will arm them with the skills, techniques and vocabulary necessary to describe their ghostly scenes in a way that allows the reader to feel the characters’ fear and visualise the source of their terror within the setting.
Building on the vocabulary and descriptive phrases introduced in Descriptosaurus and within the context of fantasy, this guide incorporates the essential skills and creative devices that are used in other genres while extending to themes of battle, sieges, magic and mystery to unleash children’s imaginations.
Descriptosaurus: Myths & Legends
Building on the vocabulary and descriptive phrases introduced in Descriptosaurus and within the context of myths & legends, this guide will allow children to experiment with heroes, gods and supernatural beings to create a legendary story.
Descriptosaurus: Action & Adventure
Building on the vocabulary and descriptive phrases introduced in Descriptosaurus and within the context of action and adventure, this guide will encourage children to experiment with their own adventure stories. It will arm them with the skills, techniques and vocabulary necessary to describe their action scenes in a way that allows the reader to feel the characters’ fear and excitement, and visualise the action within the setting.