Literary Elements

Literary elements can be found in novels and poetry. Even movies sometimes make use of some of these elements (in their scripts or the structure of their plots). There is a list with explanations in Chapter One of The Writer's Jungle to help you teach them to your kids, if you own that manual.

The Arrow deals with literary elements in a more systematic way, for those who want that kind of support in teaching them to their kids. One of the benefits of knowing the literary elements and then calling attention to them with your kids is that these elements help writers become intentional about how they craft their thoughts into words.

Too often, mothers and educators focus on improving writing through better punctuation, grammar or format. What they neglect to suggest (and what would improve the writing far more efficiently) is to show aspiring writers how to use literary techniques/elements used in the writing they enjoy reading. These elements help their writing spring to life.

Alliteration (repeated initial consonants), assonance (repeated internal vowel sounds), consonance (repeated internal consonant sounds), onomatopoeia (words that sound like the sounds they describe: cock-a-doodle-do), vivid verbs, the principle of "show, don't tell" and so on are all elements of excellent writing. They're more important than paragraph structure. They're more important than spelling.

The beauty of learning literary elements and recognizing them in the writers you read is that it's entirely possible to learn to use them yourself. There's no mystery here. As you read E. B. White, you and your kids will notice his effective use of alliteration or "show, don't tell" and you'll all find yourselves even more pleased with his writing… and wanting to achieve the same effects.

The Just So Stories class deals with literary elements specifically. It both helps kids to recognize specific elements that Rudyard Kipling uses as well as teaches kids how to intentionally reproduce those elements in stories of their own. The power of using literary elements is akin to giving someone a Kitchen Aid mixer to make whipped cream after having only ever beat cream with a hand-held whisk. The writer will find herself jazzed that a conscious use of the tool produces such a satisfying result!

For more help with literary elements, subscribe to the Arrow or order back issues.

Or you can do a google search and find loads of lists that include literary elements to explore and notice in the books you read aloud at home.