It's Great to Elaborate

Contributor: Suzanne Riordan. Lesson ID: 13930

Having a good discussion means more than saying, "I agree" or "I disagree". Learn some strategies to dig deeper and express your thoughts with more style and substance. Let the dwarves show you how!


Verbal Communication

English / Language Arts
learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Beaver, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Skill Sharpener

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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If you've seen the movie, The Hobbit, you may remember this scene. The dwarf leader, Thorin Oakenshield, sings a song that tells the dwarves' story about how a dragon came and destroyed their valley, drove them out of their homes, and plundered their gold.

Watch The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey: Misty Mountains Song from New Trailer Buzz:

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If you've read The Hobbit, you know the song goes on for much longer and is revived at different times to help set the mood of the story.

  • Why did the author use a song to express the thoughts of his characters?

(Hint: It's all about elaboration.)

The word elaborate comes from the Latin word elaborare, meaning "to labor, endeavor, struggle, work out".

You can guess that to elaborate takes some work. It means not giving simple, watered-down answers.

To elaborate means to provide details and description that help others get a clearer idea of what you're talking about.

  • Have you ever had a teacher tell you, "Show me. Don't tell me."?

That means he or she wants you to elaborate.

Let's study the dwarves' song and learn to elaborate on our answers.

J.R.R. Tolkien did not provide a title for his song. Although others have called it by various names, we will call it "The Dwarves' Song" throughout this lesson.

Let's read the first two stanzas.

  • Far over the misty mountains cold
  • To dungeons deep and caverns old
  • We must away ere break of day
  • To seek the pale enchanted gold.
  • The dwarves of yore made mighty spells,
  • While hammers fell like ringing bells
  • In places deep, where dark things sleep,
  • In hollow halls beneath the fells.

Now, think of how you might answer this question:

  • Where are the dwarves going, and why?

You could say, "They're going to the mountains to get some gold." That answer would certainly be true, but it doesn't give a clear idea of the long, hard journey they're going to embark on or the deep emotions they feel about it.

Let's try to elaborate on that answer.

"They're going on a long journey. We know that from the word far. They're going toward cold, dark, and deep caverns under the mountains (fells). They're leaving early in the morning to seek the riches that their ancestors had worked so hard to make."

  • That answer gives a clearer idea of what the author was trying to share with us, doesn't it?

Let's read the next three stanzas.

  • For ancient king and elvish lord
  • There many a gleaming golden hoard
  • They shaped and wrought, and light they caught
  • To hide in gems on hilt of sword.
  • On silver necklaces they strung
  • The flowering stars, on crowns they hung
  • The dragon-fire, in twisted wire
  • They meshed the light of moon and sun.
  • Far over the misty mountains cold
  • To dungeons deep and caverns old
  • We must away, ere break of day,
  • To claim our long-forgotten gold.

Let's think of an answer to this assignment:

  • Describe the work that the dwarves were doing in their cavern home.

An unelaborate answer might be: "They made swords, necklaces, and crowns." Again, it correctly states some facts, but it doesn't give any hint of the incredible skills of the dwarves as craftsmen and the great respect they earned for their gifts.

Here's a better answer: "With great, almost magical skill, they crafted beautiful swords decorated with gems, necklaces that seemed hung with 'flowering stars', and crowns embellished with 'dragon-fire'. They seemed to bring even the light of the sun and moon into their fabulous creations. Their works were desired by lords and kings."

  • Are you getting the idea of elaboration now?

To elaborate, you can:

  • ⇒ provide interesting details
  • ⇒ explain a word that might not be known by everyone
  • ⇒ use quotes from the work
  • ⇒ use examples
  • ⇒ use adjectives and other descriptive words
  • Are you ready to try elaborating now?

Good, go on to the Got It? section!

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