Modeling Our Writing After Another Author's Style
Lesson 2 for The Senegalese MiraclePrint this Page
- Subject(s): Language Arts & Literature, Cross-Cultural Understanding
- Region / Country: Africa / Republic of Senegal
- Grade Level(s): 6–8, 9–12
- Related Publication: Uncommon Journeys
Students will emulate the author's descriptive phrases in their own writing.
About the Story
"The Senegalese Miracle" describes Kaldi's arrival in Senegal and her first encounter with the local population. After deplaning and boarding a bus, the new Peace Corps Volunteers have occasion to encounter a Senegalese man and his family who offer them oranges and explain the "Senegalese miracle," a phenomenon entailing hospitality and generosity. The story gives students another view of themes raised by Mike Tidwell in "Sharing in Africa," and makes an excellent companion piece.
About the Setting
Because Senegal was a French colony, French is the official language in the country, but many local languages are also spoken. Like many of its West African neighbors, Senegal, which has a population of 9.2 million, ranks among the least developed countries in the world. Under its new industrial policy, the government is attempting to stimulate the economy through the reduction of bureaucracy and the privatization of state industries. Progress is being made, but many factors still hinder the country's development. Desertification continues to affect agricultural production. Roughly 70 percent of the population is engaged in agriculture, but agriculture contributes less than 25 percent of the country's gross domestic product. At present, many Senegalese do not have access to basic health care. To address these needs, Peace Corps Volunteers, more than 2,500 of whom have served in Senegal since 1963, focus their efforts in the areas of agriculture, business development, environment, and health.
For further information about Senegal, visit the country-information section of the Peace Corps website at www.peacecorps.gov.
- To practice modeling writing after exemplary prose
- To practice writing complex descriptive sentences
- Wiry: Thin, lean, sinewy
- Apprenti:: [uh-PRON-tee] French for apprentices to the bus or truck driver, who collect the fares and assist passengers with luggage
- Baobab: [BAY-uh-bab] A tree indigenous to semi-arid parts of Africa, which develops an enormously thick trunk and has a life span of perhaps a thousand years
- Ignoble: not grand
- Swale: a depression in the land
- Boubou:: [BOO-boo] A long, flowing robe that is traditional clothing in Senegal
- Proffer: To offer; give
- N'est-ce pas?: [ness PAH?] French expression for "Isn't that so?" Many Senegalese speak French because Senegal was a French colony.
- The Senegalese Miracle by Leita Kaldi
- Explain to students that one trait of evocative writing is the appeal to our senses of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Ask students to re-read "The Senegalese Miracle" and underline as many sensory images as they can find in each of the five categories. Discuss students' findings as a class. Lead students to see that Kaldi's writing is vivid because it is filled with complex descriptive sentences, and that they can use these sentences as models for their own writing.
- Read aloud the sentence that begins the fourth paragraph of the story: "As we milled around by the roadside, sticking close to each other, a full moon parted the curtain of clouds and flooded the sky with light." Explain to the students how they can "chunk" this sentence so they can imitate it. Chunking simply means dividing a sentence into grammatical or meaningful sections (e.g., prepositional phrases, subject clauses). Divide the sentence into chunks on the chalkboard: "As we milled around / by the roadside / sticking close to each other / a full moon / parted the curtain of clouds / and flooded the sky with light." Discuss with students what differences in effect they see between that sentence and this one: "As we stood by the roadside, the moon came out."
- Now put together a complex descriptive sentence with the class, modeled after Kaldi's sentence. Focus the new sentence on an entirely different topic: a mother and her small child waiting under a bridge for the rain to stop and the sun to come out. Begin modeling by giving several starter phrases. For example, "While they lingered / under the stone bridge / holding their coats close around them / . Ask students to look at Kaldi's sentence and provide ideas for each subsequent phrase in the new sentence until the sentence is completed. One example for completing the sentence: "While they lingered / under the stone bridge / holding their coats close around them / a sudden deluge / poured from the sky / and covered the ground with tiny rivulets."
- Ask students to work with a partner to create yet another variation of the same sentence. Ask for volunteers to share their new sentences with the class.
- Have students take out a piece of writing they are working on. Ask them to select two sentences that are rather short and not easy to visualize and turn them into complex descriptive sentences, based on Kaldi's model. Tell them that the details they add to their sentences should relate to the reader's senses, with the goal of giving the reader the feeling of "being there."
- Option for Younger Students.
Once younger readers have found examples of vivid images relating to the five senses in Kaldi's story, give them art materials and ask them to sketch one of the scenes in Kaldi's story. Remind students to be sure they use specific information from the text for their sketch, so that their drawing is accurate (e.g., the oranges are green, not orange).
When the students are finished, ask them to compare their sketches with those of a partner—and to explain to their partners which details from the text they used for their drawings. Ask students to look for accuracy in their partners' drawings. Ask how drawing the scenes helped them understand what took place.
Framework and Standards
- Descriptive literature can serve as a useful example for students of writing
- How can I revise my writing to make my imagery more vivid?
English Standards: 2, 3, 6
Social Studies Standards: I, IV
National Geography Standards: 10, 11, 13
For more information on the standards in Uncommon Journeys, see the Appendix (pdf—160 KB).