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Unit 3 Description of a Place


Unit 3 Description (I)
Description of a Place

CONTENT
? I. English Conventions

? II. Writing Principles ? III. Language Tips ? IV. Student Writing Analysis

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Warming Up: Masterpiece Appreciation
路畔的蔷薇 郭沫若 清晨往松林里去散步,我在林荫路畔发现了一束被人遗弃 了的蔷薇。蔷薇的花色还是鲜艳的,一朵紫红,一朵嫩红,一 朵是病黄的象牙色中带着几分血晕。 我把蔷薇拾在手里了。 青翠的叶上已经凝集着细密的露珠,这显然是昨夜被人遗 弃了的。 这是可怜的少女受了薄幸的男子的欺绐?还是不幸的青年 受了轻狂的妇人的玩弄呢? 昨晚上甜蜜的私语,今朝的冷绿的露珠…… 我把蔷薇拿到家里来了,我想找个花瓶来供养她。 花瓶我没有,我在一只墙角上寻着了一个断了颈子的盛洒 的土瓶。 ——蔷薇哟,我虽然不能供养你以春洒,但我要供养你以 清洁的流泉,清洁的素心。你在这破土瓶中虽然不免要凄凄寂 寂地飘零,但比遗弃在路头被践踏了的好罢?

Warming Up: Masterpiece Appreciation
Wayside Roses by Zhang Peiji Rambling through a pine forest early in the morning, I came across a bunch of forsaken roses lying by the shady wayside. They were still fresh in colour. One was purplish-red, another pink, still another a sickly ivory-yellow slightly tingled with blood-red. I picked them up in my hand. The numerous fine dewdrops on the fresh green leaves clearly showed that the roses had just been cast away the previous night. Were they pitiful maidens deflowered by fickle men? Or were they unlucky young men fooled by frivolous women? Last night’s whispers of love; this morning’s drops of cold dew… I brought the roses home and tried to find a flower vase to keep them in. Flower vase I had none, but I did find in a nook of my room an empty earthen wine bottle with its neck broken. --O dear roses, though unable to treat you to spring wine, I could offer you limpid spring water and my sincere pure heart. Wouldn’t it be better for you to wither away in solitude in this broken earthen wine bottle than to lie abandoned by the roadside and be trodden down upon? Guo Moruo, translated

I. English Conventions ? Description is intended for creating a certain dominant impression. Through describing an object in a vivid way, it enables readers to visualize what is described, to feel what the writer feels, and thus to share the writer’s mood.

1.1 Nature of Description ? Description essentially paints a verbal picture that helps readers share the sensory experience through the process of “showing” rather than “telling”. A good description appeals to a reader’s sense of sight, sound, smell, taste and even touch.

1.1 Nature of Description
? Descriptive writing is usually composed of an introduction, body and conclusion, and they all work together to achieve the goal of presenting a clear and vivid picture of somebody or something. The introduction captures the readers’ attention through expressing the main features of the subject. The body of supporting paragraphs brings the picture to life through the specific details and expressions. The conclusion, of course, reinforces the overall impression by summarizing these details.

1.2 Typical Descriptive Writing
?

The drive was a ribbon now, a thread of its former self, with gravel surface gone, and chocked with grass and moss. The trees had thrown out low branches, making an impediment to progress; the gnarled roots looked like skeleton claws. Scattered here and again amongst this jungle growth I would recognize shrubs that had been landmarks in our time, things of culture and grace, hydrangeas whose blue heads had been famous. No hand had checked their progress, and they had gone native now, rearing to monster height without a bloom, black and ugly as the nameless parasites that grew beside them. Selected from Rebecca

1.2 Typical Descriptive Writing
? The descriptive paragraph is set in the dream of Caroline de Winter. The novel begins with her reflecting on a dream she has had about Manderley and as she remembers her dream the story unfolds. In this paragraph, the haunted image of an abandoned mansion emerges as a comparison of the drive with its past begins. The scene of its past glory has gone. Yet, the seemingly vanishing spirit of Rebecca is hanging over the sky of the wretched house, a sepulchre with fear and suffering lay buried in the ruins. This paragraph exudes a sense of power and foreboding – a feeling of menacing indestructibility. Is Caroline’s enemy amongst the living or the dead? The reader’s heartbeats boom rapidly.

II. Writing Principles A good description focuses on a single dominant impression. Every word or image serves to render the dominant impression clearer. The writers may, at first, give all the details; the dominant impression should be built upon these details. Be sure that the particulars are consistent with the dominant impression.

2.1 Determine writing purpose
? Places may be described for their own sake: the writer tries to create a picture in words, so that the reader can see the place. Places can also be described for the purpose of revealing the personality and character of a person, or creating a feeling or mood: A clean and tidy room might show that the occupant is an orderly person; a house standing in solitude on a barren mountain builds up a somber mood. ? Description can be divided into two types: objective and subjective. In an objective description, we describe the subject without revealing our attitudes or feelings. In a subjective description, we are free to interpret details or convey a highly personal view. Few descriptions are completely objective.

2.2. Establish the controlling idea and the relevant details
? The choice of the controlling ideas and specific details depends on one’s writing purpose. ? If one is writing an objective descriptive essay and the writing purpose is to inform the reader of the place, the relevant details will be the location, the area, the population, the customs, the local specialty and any other unique features ? If one is writing a subjective descriptive essay and the writing purpose is to attract readers to visit the place, then the relevant details should be the landscape or the beautiful scenery as well as a very brief description of the location.

2.2. Establish the controlling idea and the relevant details
? The necessary semantic elements should be: ? Orientation →detailed features ( location →area →population →landscape →local customs →local specialties →history ) (options of writing are decided by the writer) →coda/end

2.3 Organize descriptive details
? The right way of organizing descriptive details will best support the dominant impression. The writer may involve readers enough so that they can “see,” “hear” or “sense” the subject being described. In such a paragraph, the sentences are usually sequenced spatially; for example, from top to bottom, from interior to exterior, or from nearest to farthest. Sometimes the sentences are arranged chronologically, or a combination of both. It’s true that the paragraph can also be ordered emphatically, so it ends with the most striking elements. ? Descriptive paragraphs do not always have the conventional topic sentences, but in each one there must be a clear focus. This focus is often indicated by a sentence at the beginning of the paragraph. This functions as a kind of informal topic sentence, controlling the focus of the whole paragraph.

Sample Writing
? Oxford is an exceptionally old university town, on the River Thames, about 60 miles from London. Unlike modern university towns where you usually find the universities on the edge of the town or on its own campus, Oxford’s center is the universities; and all around the crossroads at the very heart of Oxford, there are gray stone Colleges and other university buildings. In the center, you can also find interesting old pubs and paved passages. Like all English towns, there are parks, and one, “the Parks”, is the leafy home of university cricket in the summer months. As you leave the center and go towards the outskirts of Oxford, you can see industrial estates and a car factory in one direction; and in another, attractive and expensive suburbs. There is, in fact, quite a lot of industry in Oxford.

East or West, Home is Best!

III. Language Tips
? In constructing a descriptive paragraph, linguistic techniques like proper verb tenses, vivid language and varied structure are proposed.

3.1 Proper Verb Tenses
? 3.1.1 Use the present tenses.
? Examples of the simple present tense: ? 1. Zhoushan falls under subtropical monsoon marine climate featuring a mild temperature all the year round. ? 2. Putuo is covered with many temples and monasteries, both large and small. ? 3. With its famous natural beauty, Hangzhou is one of China’s most important tourist resorts. ? 4. Qingdao is a beautiful city located in the southeast part of Shangdong Province, to the east, lie Korea and Japan, making it an important city for international trade.

3.1 Proper Verb Tenses
? Examples of the present continuous tense: ? 1. Weeping willows are waving in light breeze. ? 2. Small factories, shops and living quarters are springing up along the highway of my hometown. ? 3. Among the small old houses, new multistory buildings are rising, creating symbols of modernity for the city. ? 4. Leaves are fluttering in the air with the wind just like dancing butterflies.

3.1 Proper Verb Tenses
? Examples of the present perfect tense: ? 1. Xi’an is listed as one of the most important cities and one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China because it has been the capital of 13 dynasties. ? 2. Although thousands of years have passed, people can still see many historical sights in my hometown, such as the Terra Cotta Warriors and the Cemetery of the First Emperor in my hometown. ? 3. Apart from the long history and modernization of my hometown, what is worth mentioning is the variety of food which has attracted many visitors especially foreigners. ? 4. With its centuries-old history and beautiful landscape, Xianju has become a paradise for touring.

3.2 Concrete and Specific Sensory Words
? For example: ? In spring, the wind may blow all day long in Beijing. The air is filled with fine dust which sometimes blocks out the sun. There is no escape from the fine dust. It gets into your eyes, your ears, your nostrils and your hair, and penetrates through closed windows.

3.2 Concrete and Specific Sensory Words
? General description ? 1. The chair in my room is comfortable. ? 2. The lake is pretty. ? 3. The flowers smelled wonderful. ? 4. The park benches were rough. ? Specific and detailed ones ? 1. The worn green chair fits my body exactly. ? 2. The turquoise lake shimmered in morning sunshine. ? 3. The creamy white gardenias gave off a heavy perfume. ? 4. The old concrete park benches scraped the skin of my legs.

3.3 Transitional Words or Prepositional Phrases
? The following are words and phrases indicating space: ? Above, across, against, along, around, at, behind, below, beneath, underneath, beside, between, facing, from, in, inside, in front of, in the middle of, next to, on , on either side of, on top of, outside, over, separated by, supported by, surrounded by, to the left of, to the right of, under…

3.3 Transitional Words or Prepositional Phrases
? For example: ? As I stand at the door looking in, the first thing I see on the far side of the room is a yellow wall. Underneath it is a bed covered with a flowered bedspread and, to the left, my night table. Behind the night table, fresh air from my window gently rustles the yellow and green curtains back and forth. On top of it are a black and white TV set, a wooden jewelry box, three bottles of cream, and a baby picture of me in a sliver frame. Hanging on the wall beside my dresser is a calendar with large black numbers. In the corner below the calendar is the radiator. Above it, there are three bookshelves.

3.4 Figure of Speech
? Appropriate use of the figurative language will add freshness and life to your description, but overuses of it will make your writing too “flowery”. ? Simile: ? Seen from the bank, the river looks just like a mirror. ? Metaphor: ? His memories provide not so much a window on the past as a key hole through which we may guiltily peep.

3.4 Figure of Speech
? Personification: ? The whole world seems ready to sleep, and my little garden is dozing off. ? Sometimes, the three figures of speech are mixed together. ? For example: ? 1. Fudan is a graceful lady who is accustomed to serenity but meanwhile each action of hers outpours her innermost temperament. (M & P) ? 2. The lake is still, being undisturbed by wind, let alone storm, and it looks like a fair maiden. (S & P)

3.5 “there be” Pattern
? For example: ? 1. There is a stream flowing through my hometown all the year round. ? 2. In addition to these monasteries, there is a large institute of Buddhism, one of the largest Buddhist academic institutes in China. ? 3. There was a pink mark upon the handkerchief. The mark of lip-stick.

3.6 Inverted Sentence Order
? For example: ? 1. On top of the bookshelves stand models of ships. ? 2. Hanging on the wall is a huge poster of my favorite movie star.

3.7 Phrases Indicating the Location
? Be located in…, be situated in…, lie…, lie in / to / south of…, neighbor…, border…, nestle… ? For example: ? 1. Beijing lies in the north of the North China Plain. ? 2. Hangzhou is located in the southern part of Yangtze River Delta, at the western end of Hangzhou Bay, in the lower reaches of Qiantang River, and at the southern end of Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal. ? 3. The stunning landscape in which the city is situated has a kind of magic that is all its own.

IV Student Writing Analysis

My Hometown
In a Hunan map, my hometown can be found in the middle of it. It is a small village near Changsha which is the capital of Hunan and it takes you four hours by bus to get my hometown from Changsha. There are a lot of hills around my hometown. Most of them are green because the people in my hometown have planted many evergreen pines on them. The scenery there has so great charm that it impresses anyone who come to there from town.

My Hometown
In order to earn more money, most young people in my hometown go to work in cities, leaving the old and the children at home. The people live in the village have an old but organic life style. They get to work when the sun rises, and don’t return home until it is dark. The life is busy but quiet and happy.

My Hometown
My grandfather told me that, in 1945, there were 3,000 Japanese invaders attacked my hometown. They repaved most of the food, and even the women, the worst thing was that they committed a terrible massacre there. About 3,500 people died. There is a big grave there to honor them. Although my hometown is small and not rich, I love it sincerely.

Discuss the above essay with your group and try to find its good points and problems by answering the following questions:
1. What is the purpose of writing this essay? Is the purpose clear? 2. How many controlling ideas are there in the essay? What are they? Are the ideas relevant to the title of the essay? What do you think should be the controlling idea in this essay?

3. What do you think of the content? Can it realize the purpose?

4. How is the essay organized? Are there topic sentences in the essay? What kind of paragraph developing pattern is used? 5. What are the linguistic errors in the essay?

Analysis
1. The purpose is to introduce the writer’s hometown to readers. It is clear.

2. There are four controlling ideas: the location, the features of its landscape, the people’s life style, and its history. All of them are relevant to the topic. However, the writer needs not to put equal emphasis on all of them. If the writing is to attract the readers, more emphasis should be placed on the landscape as well as the location. If it is merely for information sharing, focus should be on the description of the location, the area, the population, and local specialties and the local customs. If the essay is written to impress the readers with the historical importance of the town, the writer had better lay emphasis on the history. Remember the first step before writing is to determine the writing purpose.

3.The content in the essay has not realized the writing purpose. If the writing purpose is to give a general impression to the readers, the writer should have mentioned the area, the population, the local custom in addition to the location. The writer didn’t mention the name of his hometown once in the whole essay. If the writing purpose is to persuade the readers to come to visit his hometown, the writer should have given a vivid and detailed description of the landscape in the second paragraph. If the writer’s purpose is to impress the readers with its historical importance, the writer should have provided much more information with the history of the village.

4. In the first paragraph, there is no topic sentence. The first one is a simple fact not a topic. The second sentence is too detailed and specific, and does not need any developing sentence afterwards. In the second paragraph, the first sentence can be regarded as a topic sentence. However, there are no detailed descriptions about the hills except its being green. How can it be convincing? “great charm” is an empty expression. The discourse of the second paragraph is not logical. The last sentence of this paragraph can be treated as a topic sentence. Nevertheless, the previous supporting sentences don’t support it. Ironically, the fourth paragraph lacks a topic. They are simply statements of facts. Yet, the last sentence of the essay is an acceptable ending.

5. Apart from grammatical mistakes, there are no specific and sensory words in the essay except the general and vague adjectives such as “small, great, bi8g, old, organic, busy, quiet, happy, and terrible.”

Recommended Student’s Writing
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My Hometown
My hometown is a famous ancient city, Pingyao in Shanxi Province, which attracts flocks of tourists from home and abroad every year and draws more and more attention in the latest several decades. It is the combination of modern and ancient styles, and embodies the wisdom of local people in every corner of the heritage. In 1997,it was listed as the World Cultural Heritage. As soon as you step into this ancient city, the first sight is the spectacular ancient city wall and the shimmering moat. With the gray-bricks city wall erecting beside the moat, the scenery is breathtaking, especially in foggy weather. The construction of the ancient city wall was for the military use, which applies masterly stratagem and the Eight Trigram principles. From a bird’s eye view, the city wall is shaped like a turtle. When you are on it, you’ll find that there are 3000 crenels and 72 watch towers, which represent Confucius’ 3000 students and 72 the most remarkable ones. When you get inside the ancient city, the most conspicuous site that can’t be missed is the Shilou in the center of the city, which is also called Jinjing Lou, for there is a well in front of it. When the light of the sunset shoots into the well, it would be refracted on the Shilou, which will wear beautiful golden light. And one of the most significant scenic spot is Rishengchang, which started the first bank in China. You’ll find much more fun in my hometown. With the deepening of the globalization, my hometown keeps abreast with international development. The PIP, Pingyao International Photography Festival, was founded. Every September, the photographers all around the world come here to enjoy a feast for the eyes and soul. So unless you come here for yourself, you will never enjoy the antique flavor of this unique city. Just get packed and start a journey to a city with Ming and Qing styles! You will never regret it!

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