This was the topic I was tasked to teach in my niece Faith’s class in Meadowbank School, Remuera, Auckland. I was on vacation, and was asked to do a 30-minute talk. Since I’d do anything for Faith, and love kids, I said yes. Then I thought to myself: How do I teach better sentence building to eight year olds?
I simplified the lesson by teaching the use of descriptive words to make a sentence come to life. It’s a simple technique, really, that I use to “color” a story so it is something I can see, touch and visualize. The subject of my sentence was a cat named Kopari. Kopari was a cat I created when I was 15, a line art drawing of a feline with a bandage on his head, smiling eyes, and plaster on one of his paws (he was a mischievous and funny cat, I told them). For this very purpose, I got Kopari out of hiding, and introduced him to the kids.
First I showed them a sentence about Kopari that was devoid of adjectives. Then I asked them questions like…
“What color is his fur?”
“How many eyes does he have?”
“What kind of milk did he drink for breakfast?”
It was fun, as the kids were so animated and willing to participate. They called out adjectives to me, which I wrote down. Afterwards, I read the “better” sentence infused with their descriptive words. However, the kids seemed more interested in Kopari the cat than in the sentence-building exercise. During the open forum, they asked me questions like, “Who are Kopari’s best friends?” and “You said he was funny. Can you tell us some of his jokes?” I was about to give them answers, only to realize that I was delving into yet another writing lesson — fiction writing! Faith’s teacher stepped in to manage the kids’ excitement, and we ended the class with the group shot above, with me hoping that they got the idea of today’s little writing lesson.
“Bye,” one the kids waved to me as I walked out of the classroom. “Oh, and I like your cat.”