Age Range: 7 - 11
By: Shoba Rao
I found that this works really well the more imaginative the teacher gets.
Things needed: Bag full of 'goodies': a squishy tomato that has been kept really cold and cut in half, a paper clip, a hair clip, a rotten egg that has been broken (or any other item that gives out a strong odour). The teacher would also need a blindfold.
Tell the class that they are going to learn how to write descriptive essays using all their senses. Solicit the senses from students and write them on the board i.e. smell & taste, touch, sound and sight.
Explain that to make a descriptive essay interesting we have to add detail and we do this by adding information that the senses provide.
Divide the class into the sense categories. Blindfold one person in each group and put them in a separate area where it is unlikely for them to hear their colleagues comments. Show an object and get them to describe it using their senses, e.g. for a tomato they would write red and round under the "sight" column, under "touch" they may put soft and smooth etc. When one group has finished with an item pass it to the next group until the whole class has finished describing all the items in the bag. Monitor the groups to see if they understand the instructions.
Then explain that the four blindfolded students are going to guess the items without seeing them. Get the students to describe the objects they have just seen but they are not to mention the object itself or its uses. For example with the tomato they cannot say this is used for cooking, and they cant say it is a fruit or a vegetable. When the blindfolded student is unable to guess (and this would depend on the objects the teacher chooses to place in the bag) actually give the blindfolded student the object. For example, give the student the squishy tomato. Let him feel it, encourage him to smell it, taste it (if it is edible) and make notes of his comments on the board. When the students have finished all the objects, see if their observation matched those of the students who were not blindfolded. I found that the students really liked it when I stuck the fingers of the blind folded student right into the squishy tomato.
Then once the class has settled down again, explain the importance of adding detail in essays. Give them a sample paragraph that uses most if not all of the senses and one that writes on the same topic but without using sense details. Get them to compare / contrast and note the differences. Ask them which one is better.
As a final round up on this topic. I usually take my students to the school canteen or the food court in a shopping mall. Before we leave the class I divide them into groups - each group being one sense. Their job is to write down as much as they can on their sense at the canteen. When they return to class information is swapped (this is good practise in asking and receiving information) until they have at least two to three details from each sense group. I then give them 30 minutes to come up with the first draft paragraph.
Notes: Teachers are encouraged to vary this idea. I find that sometimes it takes too long for students to pass around all the objects so just divide them into groups and then get them to choose a leader. The leader is blindfolded and has to describe the objects handed to him by the teacher while the rest of the class makes notes on his comment. It is possible to vary the level of difficulty as well by the items that are placed in the goody bag!!
Have fun. My class really loved this exercise and I hope yours will too.
One of the keys to writing a descriptive essay is to create a picture in your reading audience’s mind by engaging all five of their senses – smell, sight, touch, taste and sound. If you can do this, then your essay is a success, if not, then you have a lot of work to do. The first steps in writing a descriptive essay will lay the groundwork for the entire piece.
Step 1: Choose a topic
A descriptive essay will usually focus on a single event, a person, a location or an item. When you write your essay, it is your job to convey your idea about that topic through your description of that topic and the way that you lay things out for your reader. You need to show your reader (not tell them) what you are trying to describe by illustrating a picture in their mind’s eye very carefully.
Your essay needs to be structured in a manner that helps your topic to make sense. If you are describing an event, you will need to write your paragraphs in chronological order. If you are writing about a person or a place you need to order the paragraphs so that you start off in a general manner and then write more specific details later. Your introductory paragraph sets the tone for the rest of the essay, so it needs to set out all of the main ideas that you are going to cover in your essay.
Step 2: Create a statement
The next step is to create a thesis statement. This is a single idea that will be prominent throughout your essay. It not only sets out the purpose of the essay, but regulates the way that the information is conveyed in the writing of that essay. This is an introductory paragraph that sets out your topic framework.
Step 3: Get the senses right
Next, create five labelled columns on a sheet of paper, each one having a different of the five senses. This labelled list will help you to sort out your thoughts as you describe your topic – the taste, sight, touch, smell and sound of your topic can be sketched out among the columns. List out in the columns any sensation or feeling that you associate with the topic that you are writing about. You need to provide full sensory details that help to support the thesis. You can utilize literary tools such as metaphors, similes, personification and descriptive adjectives.
Once you have the columns laid out you can start to fill them with details that help to support your thesis. These should be the most interesting items that you have noted in your columns and will the details that you flesh out into the paragraphs of the body of your essay. Topics are set out in each separate paragraph and a topic sentence begins that paragraph and need to relate to your introductory paragraph and your thesis.
Step 4: Create an outline
The next step is to create an outline listing the details of the discussion of each paragraph. Students in high school are generally asked to write a five paragraph essay while college students are given more freedom with the length of their piece. The standard five paragraph essay has a particular structure including the introductory paragraph with the inclusion of a thesis statement, followed by three body paragraphs which prove that statement.
Step 5: Write the conclusion
Finally, the conclusion paragraph makes a summary of the entirety of your essay. This conclusion also needs to reaffirm your thesis (if necessary). Your conclusion needs to be well written because it is the final thing to be read by your reader and will remain on their mind the longest after they have read the remainder of your essay.
Step 6: Review your essay
It is important to take a break from your writing once you have completed the work. By stepping away from the work for a short time you can clear your mind and take a short rest. You can then take a look at the essay with fresh eyes and view it in much the same way that a person reading it will when they first see the piece.
After you have taken a short break or a walk (or whatever the case may be), read the entire essay again thinking about your reader. You should ask yourself if you were the reader, would the essay make sense to you? Is it easy to read so that anyone can understand what the topic of the essay is? Do any of the paragraphs need to be rewritten because they are confusing and need to be better written to be descriptive?
Your choice of words and language need to convey what you are trying to describe when you talk about a particular topic. The details that you have provided should give your reader enough information that they can form a complete picture. Any details in the essay should help a reader to understand the meaning of the topic from the writer’s point of view.
Read your entire essay over again, out loud this time. Sometimes reading something out loud can help to identify any issues that should be worked out. Read the essay again to a friend or family member and have them give you any criticisms that they might have. Have someone else ready your essay and then ask them if anything needs to be clarified or if they received a clear picture from the details given in the essay.
Step 7: Finish it up
Finally, read your essay again very carefully and check for any grammar, punctuation or spelling errors that are obvious within the essay. If you find any clichés, be sure to delete them, they certainly do not belong in your essay. If there are any parts that are not completely descriptive or don’t make as much sense as you would like them to, rewrite them once again and then follow the proof reading and reading aloud process again to ensure that the final product is exactly as expected. You can never be too thorough when it comes to reading the essay over again and checking for any areas that need to be reworked.
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