The English Teacher

Teaching Description and Visualization

UNIT: FOUR VISITORS [Focus: Description, "Visualization" with the 5 senses]

The idea for this unit came from a humorous story that I heard on the radio. Two young men living in the South dare each other to spend until midnight in a large old deserted haunted house. One decides to do it and as he waits in an upstairs room with shrimp cooking in a pot of oil in the fireplace, he has four visitors. They come at 9, 10, 11pm and midnight respectively. Each one is scarier, larger, and more awesome than the preceding one, with the description of each using the five senses.

From this story I gained the idea for the following assignment: The students should set up the story with the barest of plots... generally one paragraph explaining why they are having visitors. The description should comprise 85%-90% of the paper. The visitors can range from good to best, or, bad to worst. The writing should be controlled so that the gradations are evident. This gradation requires much more control in writing than a simple writing of four descriptions. The class should be told that this is Not a fashion commentary and also should be done with awareness not to bring a focus on anyone in the class. The assignment is generally 2+ typewritten pages.
-Points for students: they can highlight their printed out descriptions with a highlighting pen- yellow or orange on their rough draft. That way they can see how much actual description went into the paper. Also the teacher can highlight the description when grading the final draft so that the students can see what was focused on, and perhaps the reason for the grade.
Some students may find this a challenging assignment. To help them begin, the instructor might suggest that the students use 1 sheet for each of the 4 visitors. On 1 side of the paper draw circles to list the character's qualities in, remembering the 5 senses. The students should look for degrees of change and arrange the characters appropriately. *They can use metaphors and similes to express the 'inexpressible' (but not to the extreme.)

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