2 easy ways to get students adding details to their writing!

October 7, 2020

Once writing workshop has started, students quickly get into the habit of writing a beginning, middle, and ending to their short stories. Even if it is just one sentence for each, they can grasp that idea, but how do we get them to add more?

Going back into our writing and adding details is one of the trickiest things to teach our youngest, K-2 students (in my opinion, of course)! Naturally, they feel as though their story is done. They have the beginning, the middle, and the end. They have the illustrations. They’re done… right?!

Today I am sharing two easy ways to get students to go back into their stories and add more details to their writing!

Before I dive in, I wanted to let you know that you can watch/listen to all this information in my YouTube video below:

I also have a playlist filled with writing workshop tips for the primary classroom which you can find here: Writing Workshop Tips for Grades K-2.


Tip 1: Add Sensory Details

I like to start with my students adding sensory details to their writing. Most of your K-2 students will be familiar with their 5 senses already so this is a great place to start. I use an anchor chart like this one below to help students get ideas on what types of sensory details we can add to our stories:

(you can grab this free anchor chart when you download the writing workshop guide at the bottom of this page >>> WRITING WORKSHOP MINI-SERIES)

When teaching how to do this in a mini-lesson, I like to have students close their eyes and visualize where they are in their story. I have them go through each of the 5 senses and think about what they could see, feel, hear, touch, and smell at that time during their story. I model this with my own story as well. Then, I challenge my students to go back into their writing and add at least one sensory detail somewhere in their story.

I also like to make it clear to my students that they can actually go ahead and add these details in both words and illustrations! For example, if they could hear the wind blowing outside, they can add the words, “I could hear the wind blowing the leaves.” They could also draw some swirly wind lines to their illustrations to show the wind blowing, I always model both of these and explain how these details provide more information to the reader and make the story more interesting!


Tip 2: Add background details to our illustrations

I don’t know about you, but the default illustration in my classrooms always appeared to be a sunny day. 95% of my students’ illustrations would show a sun in the corner of the paper. Sometimes with a smiley face. Other times with the rays spreading across the page. It seems to just be the default in kid illustrations! I know I am guilty too of always just drawing my little sun in the corner and moving on without a second thought, but it’s not always a beautiful sunny day.

To help combat that, I like to use a few different mentor texts. I use these in my reading workshop as well to show how the setting can affect the plot.

My three favorite texts to show how to add different background details to our illustrations are (affiliate links):

Each of these books include great illustrations and background details that help bring the story to life and add MORE to our stories. When using one of these as a mentor text, we simply read it aloud and flip through the pages as we keep our eyes peeled for background details. We notice things like where the moon is, the color of the sky, storm clouds, footprints in the snow, etc. These details give us more information as to what is happening in the story!

I also show students how they can take those illustrations and write a sentence to add more to our writing as well. For instance, if we show that it was about to rain with some dark and stormy clouds, we can add that into our writing as well, “The sky got dark and it looked like rain was coming.”

Alright, now my challenge for you is once your students have written the beginning of a personal narrative, teach them one of these strategies and have them go back into their writing and add more details!

If you want to know more tips and ideas for writing workshop, I created an entire video series diving deeper into launching writing workshop in a K-2 classroom. Each of the 4 videos comes with a little guide with all the worksheets and anchor charts I show in the video! You can find that whole series (and watch it on your own time) here: WRITING WORKSHOP MINI-SERIES (K-2)


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