Aside from teaching the importance of detail, this
activity has the virtue of requiring no materials, so it can
be done as a fun activity any time you are stuck for something
to do (maybe you got through everything else at lightening speed),
and you want to reinforce the idea that description is important.
It involves individual writing that will be shared with the rest of the class.
You can run the activity as a contest, depending on the dynamic in your class. Some classes love this;
others feel insulted, as if you are bribing them like recalcitrant children.
Either way, it gets them to write and to share
their writing with each other.
Setup for Mystery Person Contest
Have everyone write a page describing a well-known
person or character without naming the character.
The idea is to describe the person/character in such detail
that everyone will recognize who it is. While you don't want
students to create a cryptic riddle no one will be able to guess,
you also want them to move beyond "He's the President of the
United States." The idea is to describe the person's physical attributes,
personal characteristics, actions, etc., so that classmates will
recognize the person/character by the description. Stress putting the person/character in action. For example, it would be pointless to describe Michael Jordan
as a "tall, bald African-American man" -- that could be many people -- without
describing the way he moves, which reveals something singular about him.
When they are finished, have students read the descriptions out loud and see how effectively
they have described their person/character. If no one recognizes
him/her, then the student has either picked someone obscure,
or they will hopefully realize that their powers of description could use a little
work. Have students decide whose description wins -- some
people really do a wonderful job with this, providing entertaining and