Sunday, November 7, 2010

Refining Descriptions

Dr. K.N. Anandan

Quite often people get involved in certain situations where they may have to talk about others. Sometimes they may have to talk about other things such as places, things, events, processes and so on. This is why we have included description as one of the discourses to be addressed in classroom transaction. As in the case of other discourses this discourse also has its own hierarchies:
• The description of a place graduates itself as travelogue
• Describing events ends up with writing narratives or news reports
• Describing a person can lead to writing biographical sketches and profiles
• Describing a process becomes writing recipes

The classroom process of constructing this discourse depends upon what type of description is targeted and the stage at which the learners are undertaking the task. Let us see what will make the theme of the description.
Describing a person
details such as who and what the person is, the physical attributes, societal status, achievements, contributions, personal impressions …)
Describing an object
(details such as what it is, where it is found, physical properties such as shape and colour, what it is used for, etc.)
Describing a place
(scenic details of the location, images, sensory perceptions, etc.)
Describing events
(details such as what the event is, where it is taking place, the persons or things involved, the order of events, scenic details, images, sensory perceptions, etc.)
Describing a process
(details such as what it is for, things involved, sequence, etc.)

The language used for dealing with these details at various stages also will be different. Let me illustrate the point.
At stage 1 (i.e. classes 1 and 2) state verbs such as ‘be’ and ‘have’ will be used. At stage 2 (i.e. classes 3, 4 and 5) learners may also use action verbs to talk about social status, achievements, contributions, etc.
At stage 3 we expect the learners to use figurative expressions (similes and metaphors), images and so on.

So what will be the process of refining a description in groups? We know that the instructions for constructing a discourse through collaboration are directly related to the structure and features of the target discourse. Let us work out a few instructions for refining the description in groups:

Describing person - Classes 3 to 5
1. In the first round share with others whether you have written who the person is and what he is.
2. If you have not written anything tell others who and what the person is
3. Come to an agreement on how to write ideas such as who the person is and what he is
4. In the second round of sharing each one of you can tell others about one of the physical attributes of the person. Avoid repeating ideas.
5. Come to an agreement on how to write about these attributes
6. In the next turn share with others what else you want to include in the description
7. Come to an agreement on how to write the other points
8. Read the whole description and see whether any changes are necessary
Classes 6 and 7
9. Take turn and share with others one of the major achievements of the person
10. In the next step share with others the contributions the person has made to the society
11. Discuss in groups what images you want to include in the description and how to write them
12. Discuss in groups whether you want to compare with something to highlight his qualities

From what has been given above it can be seen that the sharing process is decided by the details we want to include in the description. What I have suggested here is the process of refining the description of a person. Hope my readers will work out similar instructions in the case of the other descriptions.

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