Use the cube to add detail to children’s writing

Today I worked with an eager kindergartener on writing a short paragraph. She wrote three sentences describing a sequence of events (a child standing at a table with a pitcher of milk and an empty glass, the child pouring the milk into the glass, and the child drinking the milk). Then I introduced the cube to her.

paragraph showing kindergartener's writing with details addedI had created a cube from a tissue box covered with paper. On the faces of the box I had pasted reminder words for kinds of details to add to writing. The words and phrases were “proper nouns,” “numbers,” “date, day, time, season,” “examples,” “direct quotes” and “sights, sounds, tastes, smells.”

After my student finished her paragraph, we tossed the cube. “Numbers” turned up on top. We looked for a place in her writing where she could add a number. She took out the word “a” and replaced it with the number “one.” This change was insignificant but easy for her to accomplish.

We tossed the cube again. This time “dates, days, time of day, seasons” came up. I explained what the words meant, and immediately she said, “Today.” Without my help she found a place to add “Today,” making it the first word of her paragraph.

detail suggestion cubeNext, “sights, sounds, tastes, smells” came up. We talked about the word, “milk.” I asked her if milk has a smell. “Not really,” she said. “How about a color?” “White,” she said. We found several places to put “white,” and she picked the easiest.

For the fourth and last toss of the cube, “direct quote” turned up. We had previously talked about adding how the boy felt about the milk, but she had balked at writing another sentence. However, when the cube directed her to add a direct quote, she added another sentence to the end of her writing.

This was my first time using the cube to encourage a student to add detail. It worked because the child found the cube fun to use. My experience in tutoring children to read and write is that the younger the child, the more games or gimmicks need to be incorporated into the work. Also, lessons need to be short and end before enthusiasm wanes. That is why we stopped after four throws of the cube. She was still engaged, and we needed to move on to the phonics part of her lesson.

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