K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

Learn more

Related pages

  • Support and elaboration: Support and Elaboration, the third Feature of Effective Writing, is how a writer fleshes out a piece of writing with specific, relevant details.
  • Plain Polly: Adding relevant details: This instructional technique creates a lasting visual image of how relevant details help develop a character and a focus. Students learn to add only details that are related to the main idea of a “Plain Polly” stick figure. These mascots serve as reminders to students to be selective with the details they use to support their main idea.
  • Creature creation: An elaboration writing activity: This lesson will focus on the writing element of elaboration. It will also tap into higher order thinking skills with the creation of a Coastal Plain imaginary animal and a creative story about the creature. This lesson could be linked to 4th grade Science and Social Studies objectives. For more in-depth knowledge in those other subjects, go to the lesson entitled Researching the Coastal Plain

Related topics


The text of this page is copyright ©2008. See terms of use. Images and other media may be licensed separately; see captions for more information and read the fine print.


Action Chains
Students learn to elaborate on an event in a narrative by expanding their sentences into action chains. Expanding single actions into an action chain provides the reader with a more detailed picture of an event in a narrative.
Adding Emotions to Your Story
One way to make stories even better is to show emotions, and not just tell them. In this lesson, students will use actions, gestures, and facial expressions to act out emotions.
Description as Mind Control: Using Details to Help Readers Visualize Your Story
Good writers help their readers visualize their stories by including vivid details. Students will listen to passages from Gary Paulsen’s novel Hatchet, draw one of the images from the passage, and identify which details Paulsen uses to create these images.
Plain Polly: Adding relevant details
This instructional technique creates a lasting visual image of how relevant details help develop a character and a focus. Students learn to add only details that are related to the main idea of a “Plain Polly” stick figure. These mascots serve as reminders to students to be selective with the details they use to support their main idea.
First Draft/Final Draft
Students will compare paragraphs with and without elaboration and descriptive details. They will learn how to revise their own writing by adding descriptive details such as adjectives, adverbs, concrete nouns, and precise verbs.
Sentence Carousel
Adjectives, adverbs, and precise language help construct descriptive sentences. In this lesson, students will learn to construct more elaborate sentences that will enliven their writing.
“So What?” Details
Students will learn that adding details to a piece of writing doesn’t make it better if the details are “So What?” details. Details and elaboration should be related to the main idea and should move the story along in an interesting manner.
Stretch It Out

Good writers stretch out the important scenes in a story to make them more interesting to their readers. In this lesson, students will learn to stretch out a scene by adding things that they see, hear, think, and say to others.

Show, Don’t Tell: Using Action Words
To strengthen their writing and make it livelier, students will learn to use action words to show how their characters feel.
Slow Motion Replay
Students will learn to use slow motion replay of a moment in a narrative to make it easier for the reader to feel that he or she is actually experiencing the event.

Spider Legs
This strategy for peer conferencing helps students learn to use “Spider Legs” to answer revision questions, and then insert the revised information into their drafts.
Story Surgery
As early as first grade, children can begin to revise their stories using “Story Surgery.” In this lesson, students learn how to use scissors to perform “story surgery” by cutting their stories apart at the point where more information can be added.
The Taste of Relevance
Students will learn the importance of selecting relevant details by picking the right toppings for an ice cream sundae. This activity gives the students a concrete visual memory of what good details are.


Adding Support and Detail Without Getting Arrested!
This lesson plan is designed to teach students the concept of using facts to support ideas and to interpret (elaborate on) those facts in order to create a synthesized paragraph.
Analyzing Significant Events in Jim the Boy
This activity, to be completed after reading Tony Early’s Jim the Boy, helps students identify examples and details and then analyze them effectively. The class will brainstorm examples of life-changing events in Jim’s life. The teacher will select one of the events, find the pages in the novel where it is discussed, and show the students how to annotate the text by marking details and commenting on them. Using a “T” chart, the class will then select three of the details to analyze.
Defining Tyranny
Students will focus on gathering support for and elaborating on ideas for an essay of definition on tyranny. Students will use examples from history and from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.
Essays of Definition: Lively Writing through Professional Models
This lesson examines a professional model of a definition paper and asks students to analyze and imitate the structures of using anecdotes and cause and effect to elaborate an essay of definition.
Highlighting Revisions, Glossing Changes
By highlighting their revisions and explaining (i.e.,glossing) the changes they have made to a draft of their work, students will not only become more proficient writers but will also become more conscious of the process of revision and thus more reflective writers. Further, teachers will find it easier to monitor and evaluate student revisions.
Practicing Elaboration in a Problem/Solution Essay

One theory suggests that students tend to list in an essay because they lack the tools to elaborate. Because they do not have the strategies, they attempt to fill up the empty space by introducing new primary ideas instead of fleshing out the ideas they have already presented. This activity attempts to make students aware of the need to elaborate and to provide students with some workable strategies for elaborating. Using a PowerPoint presentation, the teacher demonstrates the necessity for elaboration in a problem/solution essay. Students then choose a particular point in the PowerPoint presentation to expand through elaboration.
Selecting Evidence to Support an Argument
This is a strategy lesson to teach students how to select evidence from a text to support an argument for an essay. It was designed to take two class periods and is comprised of three mini-lessons; these lessons include teacher modeling strategy to large group, student practice with strategy in small groups, and student practice with strategy individually on what will ultimately be the essay that they write.
Using Extended Similes to Elaborate and Add Style
Students will analyze a series of extended similes, develop criteria for strong and weak extended similes, and begin using extended similes as a tool for elaboration in their own writing.