Students should use more proper nouns to add details

One easy way to add details to writing is to add proper nouns.   Yet children don’t recognize the advantage.

When children write, details such as names are clear in their minds. If they know that “we” stands for Mom, Dad and Louisa, they think the reader will too. Children are so self-centered that they forget to put themselves in the shoes of readers. They need to be reminded that readers don’t know all that the writer knows, so the writer needs to be more specific.

Here is an example of part of a fourth grader’s essay. The part in black is the essay as the student wrote it (with names changed). The part in blue is the same information with proper nouns and more details added by me.

Three months ago I finished fourth grade which I liked because of my teachers and my classes.

In May I finished fourth grade at School 18. I liked fourth grade because of my teachers, Ms. Perkins and Mr. Howard.

We had two teachers, Ms. Perkins, my math, science, and social studies teacher, and Mr. Howard, my reading and language arts teacher. Ms. Perkins didn’t give much homework, but she gave us a project for social studies. Out of all subjects, she taught me math the most. Mr. Howard, a really good teacher, used to play ball with us at recess.

Ms. Perkins taught Room 104 math, science, and social studies, and Mr. Howard taught us reading and language arts. Ms. Perkins didn’t give homework on Thursdays and Fridays, but she gave us a project about a person from the Revolutionary War. I researched Paul Revere and his ride to Lexington. Out of all subjects, she taught me math the most, including division, long division, decimals, area and perimeter. Mr. Howard, a really good teacher, used to play basketball with us at recess. He’s as good as Lebron James!

Which held your interest more?

Adding proper nouns isn’t hard.  Here are some ways.

  • Replace pronouns with names of particular people and places.  After you replace the name with a pronoun, reuse the name especially in a new paragraph.
  • Make up names if you are not sure or if the name doesn’t matter.  If you can’t remember the restaurant’s name, make one up.  If you can’t remember the tour director’s name, make one up.  If you can’t remember the name of the college your sister attends, make one up.  For most writing by children, absolute honesty is not important.  Writing well is.
  • Compare a particular person, for example, a little brother, to a famous person, for example, Dennis the Menace.
  • Use the names of books, movies, video games and board games instead of common nouns.
  • Add days of the week, months and holiday names.

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