Painting word pictures

Kamakshi Balasubramanian

As teachers, we know that teaching writing skills works best when we deliver it in small steps.
Let us take descriptive writing as our example.
Description writing skill 1. Emotions. Show, don’t tell.
Have all the children write down one sentence in their notebooks to describe an angry person. The word “angry” or any of its synonyms MAY NOT appear in the sentence.
Believe me, your class is going to learn the meaning of “writer’s block” with this small task.
Now is when you ask questions.
What does an angry person do?
creative-writing-ideas You are likely to hear the following: looks angry; looks mad; looks cross.
Yes, you say. You remind them that “angry” and its synonyms may not be used. So you proceed to ask: Can you describe what “looking angry” actually looks like? What does an angry person do or say that shows anger?
An angry person glares; bangs the door; punches someone or something.
Better. What else does an angry person do?
Shouts at the top of one’s voice. Yells. Screams. Shouts rude things. Breaks something. Hits someone.
Okay. We are getting somewhere. Any other kind of behaviour you know when someone is angry? Is anger always loud?
Refuses to speak; walks out; speaks sarcastically.
And so on.
Once this has happened, students should now try to write one short sentence describing an angry person.
You might get some examples like this:
“He slammed the door and walked out.”
“She yelled at the top of her voice making everyone nervous.”
“We glared at each other, not saying a word.”

Now have each person use that sentence in a mini context. You could once again provide ideas through questions. What happened to make a person act in that way? Who else was there at that moment? How else did that person express anger? What was the immediate outcome?

The author is an educator and writer with significant experience teaching at secondary and tertiary levels. She can be reached at

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