(This posting includes handouts which you are welcome to use with your students.)*
When written with enough details by students, a person description can be fascinating for teachers to read and can give them great insight into their students’ lives.
And, best of all, after they have learned some specific tools, students tend to have a lot of fun writing these.
Needless to say, when we talk about a person-description writing assignment, most people first think about physical appearance. However, that is only one aspect of a person that students can include in their papers. There are several other characteristics that they can describe, for example, habits, routines, plans, likes, and dislikes.
Teaching These Tools Inductively
As with other inductive exercises, in these exercises, students do not just read some examples and then told to write their own. Instead, they interact with some examples which lead them to understand how to apply them to their own writing.
I’ve included two attachments:
Attachment 1 includes three exercises in which (1) students identify descriptions that include enough/not enough details, (2) work with a variety of types of descriptions, and (3) practice applying these tools. (See Attachment 1 Describe Someone with Details Exercises)
Attachment 2 includes four exercises which will lead students to understand how these tools can be applied to a complete four-paragraph essay. This will serve as a model for when they write their own person description essay.
Exercise 1: They read a short sample first draft of an essay with few details.
Exercise 2: To lead them to understand how a writer could improve that first draft with details, students first listen to a second draft of the essay that had incorporated the tools for adding details. After they have heard it, to better understand how the tools were used, they fill in a skeleton version of the essay that they had just heard.
Exercise 3: To internalize the tools, they write that essay again without looking at the skeleton that they had filled in. (Key words of the essay are given to them to help them remember the details.) By the way, this third exercise is a good opportunity for students to focus on their sentence style and grammar without having to come up with their own ideas for the content. This provides a piece of writing which the teachers can give feedback on about the students’ grammar.
(See Attachment 2 Describing Someone Sample Essay Exercises)
After completing these two attachments, students are well equipped to write interesting person descriptions with a variety of details.
For more inductive exercises, see under “Categories”>”Inductive Approach Exercises”
For more writing-skills exercises that include listening components, see Innovative Approach to Writing: Introduce a new Unit with a Listening Activity and Write after Input
*About the free-download materials. During my 40 years of teaching ESL, I have had many colleagues who were very generous with their time, advice and materials. These downloads are my way of paying it forward.