I recently received an inquiry from a parent seeking a tutor for her son, a fifth grade student. He was a good student--As and Bs--but he struggled to write in great detail. He was fine with yes or no, or multiple choice responses, but struggled with open-ended questions and expanding upon his ideas. His reading comprehension was strong and he could easily describe a book in conversation, but when it came to writing the description he was lost.
Writing is the most common area for improvement for most of my students. They all perform well in their school work, especially math and science, but dread writing assignments because, just like this fifth grade boy, they struggle with details. When we begin the writing process, I ask my student, "What's your favorite food?" And then I explain that their writing needs "sabor," or flavor, so that the essay is so interesting, so tasty, that the reader will enjoy reading all the way to the end. That "sabor" comes from a vivid vocabulary, which is gradually acquired through reading, consulting a dictionary for unknown words, and spelling quizzes.
Let's say your favorite food is pizza. Your plain sheet of paper is the basic pizza crust. Now you add the sauce, which is your basic idea. So we have pizza crust and sauce...is the pizza finished? No! We need to add some toppings. Think of the toppings as the story's details. Who is the story about? What happens in the story? Why is it happening? Those are the details! And when you have those details, those descriptive words and phrases--your toppings--in place, you can add more toppings until your pizza, or story, is just the way you like it. Now the story is practically writing itself, and before you know it, you have a mushroom and meatball (or ham and pineapple) pizza, a story so enjoyable, so tasty, that your reader will keep coming back for more!