Objective: To enhance descriptive writing using the senses through visual memory and visual imagery
Time: 30-45 minutes (writing/art varies)
- Small pictures of animals/ people, places & things (optional)
- Colored pencils
- Watercolor paints
- White paper
- Construction paper
- Lined paper
- Masking tape
* Note: If time is a challenge, when using verbs and adjectives, and nouns, it is motivating to give the children pictures of animals, people, places or things to describe once a week; ages 5-8.
You can write a descriptive paragraph of a picture/photograph or the children can create their own picture first and use the visual to inspire their descriptive vocabulary. If a child is confident and does not need a ‘visual’, let them enter writing from their position of strength.
It’s time to paint with words! Descriptive words can make your writing come to life through your ‘senses’: hear, see, taste, touch and smell. When you use descriptions, you will help your reader understand your writing, not to mention, make it more exciting.
Circle the descriptive words:
- Soft sweater
- Long, slender body
- Curved lines
- Bright, blue sky
- Sour and juicy pickle
- Pointed ears
- Yellow corn
Each noun would not be the same without a description!
Download the printable worksheet for this descriptive writing activity for your classroom!
Student Sample Writing
A Walk in the Woods
“As me and my mom were taking a long walk in the shaded woods, we heard birds chirping on the slender tree branches. The smell of the moist air reminded us of wet snow after it has melted. Along the snowy path, we could see leafless twigs on the tall trees. They looked like outstretched fingers grabbing the cloudless sky. We just love to walk in the woods during the winter months.” (visual imagery)
Hear: birds chirping, slender branches snapping, crisp wind blowing
Smell: moist air, dried leaves
Touch: rough tree bark, leafless twigs
See: snowy path, tall trees, shaded woods
Personal Thought: love to walk, enjoy the woods, like the winter months
A Deeper Look: Notice that Jacquelyn wrote about a walk in the woods. She webbed her ideas, using her senses. Jacquelyn relied on her experiences walking in the woods. (visual memory)
Depending on the skill you are reinforcing, this activity lends itself easily to assessing descriptive sentences, elaborative sentences, story development (answering: who, what, where, why, when, and how), and the use of adjectives, verbs and nouns. Be sure to inform your students about your expectations. Perhaps you can orally assess a particular skill by asking the children to tell you to name the verbs, or nouns and adjectives. Their written application will already be completed. Another way to organize your anecdotal notes can be to create a skill chart and check off the skills that have been mastered or need more improvement. See other ways to use this lesson.
Other Ways to Use This Lesson
Remember to allow the opportunity for your learners to write “visually”. Let them see the picture before they write. Train them early to ‘visualize’ and see the details. Guaranteed, your students will feel more confident with this approach.
This lesson can focus on various skills. When you are introducing main character, story development or descriptive sentences, allow the children to draw on previous knowledge, as well as be inspired by the pictures. Try a story like this every week and create a writing journal to collect the stories. This activity can give you an on-going progress assessment as well.
Additionally, you can use this activity every week for practice along with reinforcing various topics throughout the year (all you need is a visual). You can also use activities to enhance existing reading/writing programs. For instance, you may be reading about birds one week, so allow the children to do a similar activity using sculptures, modeling clay, pictures or coloring pages of birds. If you have stickers, try them to save time. Just illustrate the background. If time is a challenge, keep pictures or cards of animals/people available, with or without a background for your students to use rather than spending time illustrating. If you have time to illustrate, try stencils to trace and add details as needed.
Lastly, glue your work to colored paper and display creatively. Read at an Author’s Tea. Collect the writing, create a bulletin board or put examples into booklets, and keep in a basket to be shared by others in your classroom library.
About the Author:
Kim Waltmire is a state and national award-winning educator. She holds an honorary seat with the 2006 USA Today All-Star Teacher team. Kim is a graduate from CCSU with a Masters in Early Childhood Education. She published a writing & literacy book; Picturesque Writing, now self-published as The Art of Visual Writing for elementary teachers K-5. Kim also published a Read-Along Series for primary grades, coupled with spelling, grammar, science and social studies lessons for k-12 with a home-school company. Her writing and Project Based Learning strategies were recognized and published in the Creative Classroom Teacher’s magazine; May/June 1998 issue. She was recognized for her educational contributions and Project Based Learning by Oprah Winfrey, interviewed on CNN, Fox News, and honored by the CT State Governor several times. Kim has taught elementary school for 28 years and presently an Educational Literacy Consultant. Kim’s passion is teaching writing literacy for all learning styles.