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Writing - Descriptive Writing

Compiled By: luv2teach77

Are you looking for ways to get your students to be more descriptive when they write? Here's a collection of descriptive writing ideas to get you started in the right direction.

Descriptive writing using 5 senses
Posted by: Kris

I do a FUN activity with my kids using the five senses. I give each student a piece of writing paper and tell them we are going to write about "Object X." They have to pretend they are aliens and want to send information back to their home planet about a new discovery: "Object X" (a Hershey's kiss!).
1) we write about what it looks like first(no touching);
2)then how it feels,
3)then we write about the sound(of the foil wrapper);
4)next we smell Object X
5)we use our sense of taste!!!! mmmm!

By the way the students are not allowed to use the words CHOCOLATE, or KISS! My first graders had a lot of fun with this activity and it is centered around writing! I have my kids write at least one sentence for each sense.

descriptive paragraphs
Posted by: Jan

I teach 2nd grade and just taught these lessons this week. The first idea I used as intro -using an observation chart. I put the kids in groups and placed a plate with one potato chip for each group. One group had to write all the words or phrases they could think of about what they saw. The next group had to write about what they could hear(Smashed chips!) The next group had to tell how it smelled and the last group had to tell how it felt. We wrote all their thoughts on a chart. I threw those chips away then past our chips to taste. Each group had to think of how it tasted. We then made sentences. I wrote a main idea sentence and their sentences were details. They loved the eating and the words were very descriptive.
The next task was for them to brainstorm ideas on their own. They closed their eyes and thought about sitting in their backyard. They had to write down what they would see, hear, feel, and smell. We talked about taste but it was optional. They are writing their descriptive paragraphs tomorrow. From their lists of things they wrote, they should be great.

descriptive writing
Posted by: Amy

I have tried a great way to introduce kids to descriptive writng at the fourth grade level actually. After a teacher modeling lesson, I have the students think of something that not too many other students in the class would have or would think of. They keep their "topic" a secret. They describe this "secret" in a writing piece. After the writing is complete they can either bring in a picture of the secret thing or draw an illustration of it based on their written description. When the students each share their writing with the class, the class guesses what the reader/writer is describing. After a few guesses have been made the student shows the picture as well to the rest of the class. The kids really liked this activity. I plan on using it again this year.

Great Ideas for Teaching Description
Posted by: Leah

I have found that sometimes just a paragraph from a great novel is as good as an entire book. I teach fourth grade and use excerpt from books like TREASURE ISLAND, BANDIT'S MOON and CHARLOTTE'S WEB. When you are doing read alouds look for short scenes that help you visualize. I do use a few picture books that I especially like- GRANDPA LOVED, THE RED RACER and OWL MOON. OWL MOON is particularly good for a focus lesson. It has descriptions that touch all the senses. When I am reading a particularly interesting passage in a book I tell the class to " Close your eyes and open your mind's eye." I then read slowly and allow them to visualize the words. We then talk about what words helped them make their picture. Another good trick is to have them close their eyes and visualize " something sweet." Have them take turns telling what they saw. Then have them close their eyes again an visualize a "huge bowl of creamy vanilla ice cream with a river of fudge leaking out from under the mountain of whipped cream on the top." Ask the students which words made it easier to get the picture. This helps them understand that description is not only to help them visualize, but to get the picture that you-the author- intend. Hope this helps- Leah

million dollar words
Posted by: Jennifer

I went to a workshop that suggested using million dollar words to enhance student writing. I thought of making that my word wall. Basically, you take a word like "said" and brainstorm all the more descriptive words that could be used instead like yelled, whispered, stated, etc. This way the word wall is used for instruction while reminding students to use exciting words. It is also great for teaching the thesaurus. Students can add to word lists as they encounter words in stories, vocabulary, or just around.

I also decorate the wall with dollar signs and gold foil letters.

Another idea I had when thinking of my own word wall is to make the words of red tagboard and arrange them like bricks to make "wall" of words. I didn't use it but thought it was cute.

Hope this helps,


Posted by: Bonnie

I have taught 3rd grade for the last 3 years. The tricks that I use for my students to indent is I have then fill in 3 trees for their prewriting ideas. The trunk of the tree represents the topic sentence and then they write 4 descriptive sentences in the leafy part of the tree. The students know that each completed tree represents a paragraph. I then tell the kids that each time they write using a different tree then they need to indent 3 finger spaces OR dock your boat. You use you thumb and index finger and place the piece of paper in between those fingers and you have docked you boat. My students love this and they seem to really understand the concept of writing in paragraph form. If you want I can fax you over a sample of the tree. Let me know.

Summer Ideas
Posted by: Deb

During a Summer School I was trying to teach children the importance of adding details to their writing. I went to the store and bought lunch bags and a variety of snacks. I also bought some dog treats and crunchy kitty food. I placed a treat in a bag and labeled it very specifically~ shaped like a triangle, covered with powdered cheese, yummy and delicious. Then I put that bag into another bag and gave a less descriptive label~cheese flavored. Then I put that bag into another bag and labeled it crunchy.

Each child got a bag...we took turns reading the outside bag to each other and guessing what might be in it. We talked about how tasty it sounded. Then we took out the next bag and read the next label and discussed how the next description changed what might be in the bag. (If the 1st said 'sweet', it could be candy, cookies, Little Debbies, etc. If the second said crunchy and full of carmel, it couldn't be a Twinkie.)

Imagine the surprise of the child whose bag had a dog treat in it. It started with a label like crunchy and then went to salty and beefy and then went to your dog would love it. The child thought they were getting jerky and really it was a dog treat.

We did a lot of giggling but it made a point that the more details, the better picture there is. I then passed out different treats and the kids tried to write clues that would describe their treats. They eventually got to eat them.

Posted by: Heather H

"Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs" is such a fun book. The kids love to pretend it can "rain" food. You could have them brainstorm other things they'd like to have fall from the sky, and have them draw a picture of it, or list them on the board and have them copy the list.

I did this next activity with older students, but you could adapt it for first graders. I have a thunderstorm sounds CD, one of those relaxation soundtracks. I played it for the class with the lights off and their heads down for about five minutes. I told them to visualize the kind of weather that would be happening with the sounds. I turned the CD off, and they wrote a descriptive paragraph of a weather scene, based on the sounds. You could do the same, and have them draw a scene instead of writing it.

Fun Writing
Posted by: Cindy

For a descritptive writing activity, I've had the kids create a drawing of an alien, creature, monster that they come up with. Then, they have to describe in great detail their monster. After they write their descritptions, they give them to another student to read and then that student tries to replicate the drawing based on the description. The kids see very quickly how importatnt it is to include details and be specific. The kids then compare their drawings. It becomes obvious that if the drawings are pretty close, the descriptive writing was good. You can have them go back and edit and try with another kid. I had no complaints with this one.

descriptive writing
Posted by: KT

You could review descriptive writing by having the kids describe their favorite pizza in detail...ingredients, favorite place, who they enjoy it with. Then for the art! A 12x 18 sheet of white paper becomes an Italian tablecloth when you sponge paint red 1x1 checks on it. When that dries the kides build their favorite pizza on an 8 inch round paper with paper ingredients. Then the pizza is glued onto a white paper plate and the descriptive paragraph written neatly and mounted on a placemat. Set the items on the red-checked tablecloth for a yummy display. The only drawback is that it takes a long time to cut out all the pizza ingredients.( It is a great classroom helper project or send home for a stay at home helper to do!)Scholastic has several teacher reference booklets out that combine writing and art.

descriptive writing
Posted by: Jenn

I got this idea from a colleague. Have the students write a description of their shoe. When I did this I brainstormed a brief list of things they may want to include in their description. I then allowed the students to write their descriptive paragraphs. After they were done they needed to draw a picture of their shoe. They needed to write another description of their shoe after drawing the picture. I then asked them to write a couple of sentences about the differences between both descriptions. It was suprising to them that they gave more info after drawing the picture. As an extension each student took a shoe off and put it on the carpet and I read their descriptions. If someone correctly guessed which shoe, then they knew they wrote a great description. Hope this helps!!!

writing descriptively
Posted by: SC

I have done a couple of exercises with my students for writing descriptively. It's something that we build on all year long because otherwise they write very plain, boring sentences.

One thing I like to do, usually at the beginning of the year, is discuss how to turn a plain sentence into a descriptive sentence. I give them one sentence, such as, "It rained." I give an example of how to add description to the sentence so that it says, "Drops of water fell from the sky." We talk about how to add adverbs, adjectives, prepositional phrases, etc. to make the sentence more descriptive. Then I have the students write down their own version of the sentence and share. Some students are more descriptive than others, so sharing helps the "weaker" ones hear some "stronger" ones. At the end of the lesson, I have them find one sentence in each paragraph of their writing where they can add in some description just like we did with "It rained."

Another lesson I do is show them two versions of the same story, one very simple and to the point, one more descriptive. We read them both and compare the two. We list all of the things the author added to the second story to keep in notebooks for reference: dialogue, adjectives, details, similes, etc. Then I give them a very simple story that they have to retell by adding in details. It's interesting because the students start with the same story, but after they add to it, they're all very different. I refer to this throughout the year when students start to slack off with their details.

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descriptive words
Posted by: bertie

Have you ever tried the idea of writing a simple sentence on a sentence strip, cutting it up and working with the class to add more descriptive vocab to it? (write the additional words on another color of sentence strip for more impact).

For example "My cat is soft" could be built up to "My fat old black and white cat is round and soft as a teddy bear." The next lesson you could use the same simple sentence or another one. Your helper of the day could illustrate it. After modelling over many times, the children might be ready to each get their own sentence to build and illustrate.

Posted by: Julianne

Most students love working with similes. I'd suggest getting some sentence strips and making the "middle" of the similes - like, as, than. Explain that similes are sentences that compare two things. Brainstorm some descriptive words for a person. A person can be happy, fast, smart, angry, frightened, etc. Now put one of your descriptive words on a piece of sentence strip and begin to build your simile. I'd start out with something simple like "Fast as a __________." Have students fill in the blank with things they think are very fast. You might end up with, "Fast as a rabbit, Fast as a race car, Fast as the wind, Fast as my dad's motorcycle." Make a sentence strip card for each ending so students can practice moving the words around during centers time. Now try the same words using "like" or "Than" in the middle. Do they still work? Using sentence strips gives students a chance to manipulate the words which adds to their understanding of the idea and to their ability to read the words. If your group isn't quite that advanced, you can do the exercise verbally and have them draw pictures to show what the simile stands for.

stone soup-yum
Posted by: Debbie

After reading stone soup have the students help list descriptive words on the board to decribe their favorite soup. read some soup labels and discuss how it makes you want to buy it. Then have them think of their own made-up soup. Like pumpkin-raisin soup or marshmellow yam soup. Something fun that they like. Give each student a can (Save either empty soup cans or dog cans) and a piece of paper that will fit around the can. The need to illustrate their soup and write on descriptive detail about their soup. We did this during soup month and they came out great. Make it simple Maybe three sentences. GIve examples of adjectives(descriptive words) Have a pattern or something they can follow. Hope this helps.

Describing Interesting Places
Posted by: iluv3rd

We just finished writing descriptive pieces. We started by brainstorming a list of interesting places we could describe (pirate ship, baseball game, daycare center, etc.). We chose one place and I modeled writing using the 5 senses to organize our ideas. We listed all the things we could see, smell, hear, taste and touch at the location (we did Busch Stadium where the Cardinals play baseball). Each sense became a paragraph. We made sure to stop and tell more after each thing we mentioned (i.e. You can smell wonderful things at the ballpark. One whiff of the popcorn and your stomach starts growling. Each kernel is soaked in butter and tastes spectacular). Then the kids worked with a partner to write a description of a place of choice. They also wrote a piece independently. In the past, I have also had kids describe their favorite reading spot, a favorite place around town, and a character from our current read aloud.

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Descriptive writing
Posted by: Judy

I always save descriptive writing for Halloween. I teach about adjectives and how to use sensory to describe things in this month. Then right before Halloween I ask the students to write an essay (usually the 5 pragrah format) about their experience in a haunted house. We talk about haunted houses for the students that have never been in one and for my penecostal student, she writes about her dream house. The kids then draw what their essay describes. It's fun and their learning descriptive writing. I've had great success with this one. Good Luck!

descriptive writing unit
Posted by: imalith

My descriptive writing unit is just coming to a close. I have several activities to help them get going. I start by taking notes on figurative language (simile, metaphor, etc).

I have examples of figurative language that the kids cut out and sort.

Students must find examples of figurative language in their books. We write them on sticky notes and glue them to small posters I have made.

Another activity is talking about color. I have several paint samples with interesting names, such as an orange called "Shrimp tail Orange" and a red called "fire truck" red. We then write similes with the colors. That girl's sweater was as orange as a shrimp's tail, or that boy's shirt was as red as a fire truck".

We also do an activity with personification. They make "Wanted" or "Lost" posters for inanimate objects. Must include a simile and descriptive language.

The last activity we worked on was describing a picture like a setting for a book. I cut out pictures from travel magazines. Mostly scenic pictures. Students then wrote descriptive paragraphs about the picture. The paragraphs are not stories, but description of the picture as if they are standing in front of the scene. I model one first and then they write it. The modeling part is critical if you want to get decent topic sentences and conclusions.

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Description Lesson
Posted by: tinatedder

First I told them to close their eyes. I said "My dog is cute." Then they were told to visualize what my dog looked like. I got answers ranging from chihuahua to lab. Then I posted 6 pictures of dogs and said "Which one is my dog?" They were unable to tell me for sure which one. I said "Why? I described my dog. Why can't you say which one's my dog?" They immediately pointed out that my description wasn't specific enough- all the dogs were cute. I preceeded to add details (general) to my "cute" description, with the same results. Finally I added specific details until the students were able to tell me accurately which dog I was describing. The independent writing assignment following this lesson was amazingly more detailed than yesterday's paragraphs! And the students were begging me to let them write more. I'm student teaching. This was my best lesson yet and I think your students will love it like mine did.

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Sensory writing
Posted by: 1956BD

We write a descriptive essay on the oreo. First we study the five senses. Then I tell them we are going to write about the oreo using all five of our senses. I give each of them an oreo in a baggie to keep while we are writing. The first day we smell it and as class make a list of adjectives that describe the smell. Usually that same day we write a list of words that describes what it looks like. The next day we braintstorm a list of words that describes how it feels in your hand.

The last day (day#3) we eat it and describe the taste, with a long list of descriptive words. Before we bite into them I remind them that we also need to list the sounds the cookie makes as we eat it. Our fifth piece of chart paper describes the sounds of eating an oreo. Then they start writing. They must have a good beginning, middle and conclusion. They must include all five senses. After a peer and teacher edit we write the final copy on a round piece of paper. We cover it with a round drawing made to look like an oreo.

On the Nabisco web site you can find the oreo song and play it for your students. I always kick the assignment off with that. I also typed the words up so we could sing it together as a class. We talked about that the advertising writers got paid for making up this song. They thought that sounded like a cool job.

I help them edit their work and create a final copy to share with the class. We try to get at least one onomatopoeia word in there for sound, like crunch or snap. We also try to use a simile in the oreo essay.

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Descriptive Writing
Posted by: jerzgirl

I use beanie babies. I display about 15 different beanie baby animals on the chalk tray. They look at them and secretly choose one to write about. They have to write at least 3 sentences to describe the beanie baby and then we play a guessing game. A lot of the kids "get" it, but others just write simple clues. For example- I am small. This leads to lots of discussion and we do a second round the next day to see if they can describe more clearly which animal they chose. Lots of fun. I also use this to extend vocabulary, discussing synonyms and strong adjectives.

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Jolly Rancher
Posted by: Ms. J

To introduce how to write a description, I start with a jolly rancher description. I start by asking students to close their eyes, and only hold out their hands. Then I proceed to ask them to feel, smell, and hear the sounds that are made as they examine the "unknown" candy in their hands. At this time, their eyes remain closed, and thoughts and descriptive words are kept to themselves.

I proceed to ask them to make a prediction as to what the candy is, and then they may open their eyes. Then they look at the candy and think of words to describe what it looks like. Finally, they are able to open up the piece of candy and describe what it tastes like.

As they suck on the jolly rancher, the students write the words they thought of while examining the jolly rancher on a graphic organizer. After giving students some time to write their own words and thoughts, we brainstorm as a class.

I continue to go through the entire writing process with this activity. Very fun and engaging!

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Using Vivid, Exciting, Exact Words
Posted by: jensw

I'm in 5th. I started with vivid verbs and put words like "went" "said" or "got" on the board, and I had them brainstorm more descriptive ways to say those ("raced" "stammered" or "received"). I let them act out the words. I would give a "boring verb" and tell a student to act it out. Then I'd tell them they were doing it wrong! (I'd tell them to walk, for example.) Did that a couple times. They'd get confused, and then I'd tell them the vivid verb ("shuffle" or "limp" or whatever). That demonstrated how important it was to be vivid/exact! We want our reader to know exactly what we mean when we write.

We did tons of practice with that. Then I had them choose 4 vivid verbs and find a picture in a magazine or newspaper that illustrated that vivid verb and explain why. (For example, some of my students picked a picture of two players in a football game for "battle." They explained that the football game was like a war for rival teams. :D )

Did the same thing with exciting adjectives/adverbs ("fire-engine red" instead of "very red" or "bulbous" instead of "round"). I had them draw what I told them with the "boring" words (round plate) and then tell them it was wrong again.

Then on to exact nouns ... "firefighter" instead of "man" or "pediatrician" instead of "doctor." More drawing, too.

Then we started creating sentences using the VV, EA, and EN words. Four weeks later (1 hr a day/ 2x a week), we are working on descriptive paragraphs. But their writing is exponentially better. :s)

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