Students can help each other think
of details to add to their writing by swapping papers and asking each other
a series of questions about the piece. For example, a reader can find three
places in the composition where additional details would be helpful. Instead
of simply asking for more details, the reader can ask a specific question such
as "How did the Town Council make that decision?", "What kinds
of fabric work best for that project?", or "What specific complaints
did the war protesters have?".
Lane (1993) recommends a technique that
he calls "Explode a Moment," which lends itself especially well
to narrative writing. He tells students to find a moment in time (for example,
when someone spilled milk on the table) and develop the moment through descriptive
detail that stretches time and makes it last longer than expected. Students
may find the "Explode a Moment" technique helpful as they compose
introductions to more expository writing as well when they use narrative to
engage the reader.
Strong (2001) advocates "using
questions to scaffold" (p. 20). This involves asking questions that become
increasingly specific about one piece of the composition. He gives the following
sample starter sentence: "With fingers clicking, the dude is tuned in
to the beat of music and to the verbal hysteria that comes from his radio"
(p. 20). He then proposes the following questions for the writer: "What
does the dude look like? What kind of music does he hear? What is the verbal
hysteria?" (p. 20). The student writes another sentence and the scaffolding
Students may need to see effective use
of elaboration in order to use it in their own writing. By selecting a piece
of writing in the same genre of the assignment, the teacher can create an "unelaborated"
version to help students see the difference that the elaboration makes. Or,
students can collaborate to "elaborate" the weak version as a way
of learning how to take the bare bones of a paper and add flesh to it.
Although freewriting and listing
are often thought of as useful prewriting activities, they can also be used
while students are drafting if they begin to have difficulty thinking of details
and elaboration to flesh out the text. Students can be instructed to brainstorm
a list of 10 things that they know about the topic but haven't included.
They can also be asked to select one paragraph from the draft and write as much
as they can think of about what they've written so far as a way of seeing
if there are other details that may be helpful.
Clustering is another technique commonly thought
of in light of prewriting that can be helpful for students when they need to
"check out" the elaboration they have used. Students can cluster
the ideas from each paragraph to see if they actually get to the point where
they are supporting the examples with details and elaboration that make it real
for the reader.
Sometimes students simply need distance from
the composition in order to see the lack of detail that may have been in their
heads as they wrote but somehow didn't make it onto paper. After a few
days away from the piece, they may be better able to judge where they need to
tell the reader more to make the writing come alive, be convincing, or be complete.
In Horticulture I, students examine a problem currently facing the farmers
of North Carolina and propose a solution to that problem. In order to make sure
that they have effectively explained the problem, students cluster the ideas
in the piece as a way of finding places to add relevant details.
In Foreign Language I, students compose a sentence in the target language
describing the classroom. The teacher asks a prompting question to help students
use vocabulary they know and flesh out the description with more detail
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