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Monday, April 20, 2009

Helping elementary writers add SENSES to their stories.

In many stories, especially those written by children, you may as well leave your five senses at home, as you won’t be needing them while reading.  I have a suggestion for you teachers, and this is probably one of the most effective visual aids to try when your kids are not using enough of the five senses to tell their story.
At any store that carries the Mr. Potato Head game (Reg. U.S. Pat. and Tm. Off.), purchase the type that has two or more characters so that you can involve more than one story character in the activity. As each story is being read, begin with the game pieces out, but nothing attached yet. When the author allows the reader to visualize something, plug in the eyes. If the reader gets to hear what a character is hearing, go ahead and plug in one of the ears. If the story shifted its setting, you could put in his feet, and so on. Many of the Potato Heads have accessories, so you can utilize them also when certain things are mentioned in the story. For example, if a reference is made to weather, you might put on his sunglasses. When the characters express feelings or emotions, you could place a heart sticker where his heart would be.
There are two extremes to be aware of when using this activity. The first one is that at the beginning of the year, many students will go through an entire paper without using any of their senses whatsoever! You would only put feet on the Potato Head, because all the author did was go places and do things. The other extreme is the student who wants his Mr. Potato Head to be completely filled with body parts by the time the story is finished. In his quest to do this, many of the details that are mentioned seem forced into the story, instead of sounding like they developed naturally. In a situation such as this, I would not give credit for use of the senses. After a while, with plenty of practice on their part and much patience on yours, you will begin to hear nicely balanced papers, full of exciting ideas that include most of the five senses.

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