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Writing Lesson Plan: Learning about Sensory Details

By Margo Dill

Students often wear blinders when writing description because they only write what they see. They forget about the other five senses. In this writing lesson plan, students will find examples in real literature of authors using sensory details to describe the setting of their story.

Writing Lesson Plan for Finding Sensory Details

  1. Write the five senses in a row across the chalk board with room to write underneath each sense. Ask students to tell you descriptive details of a place they would all be familiar with (such as the cafeteria, a park in the neighborhood). Explain that students will need details listed under each sense.
  2. Once there are enough details under each of the five senses, tell students they just provided sensory details. Sensory details are what writers use when writing description to ground a reader in a certain setting. We don't just use our eyes to remember a place; we use all five senses. Writers want to capture those feelings to make settings more real to readers.
  3. In the next step of this writing lesson plan, you should assign students a task to find sensory details in classroom library books, books they have at home, or their own library books. If you are teaching third, fourth, or fifth grade, you may want to make some specifications on the types of books they may use. Do you want them to use picture books or chapter books?
  4. Before you turn students loose to find sensory details, you'll want to practice together as a class with a book full of sensory details such as Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. Read a passage full of sensory details to your students. Ask them to make a note of any that they hear and which sense the detail addresses. Discuss their findings when you finish reading the passage.
  5. Ask students to write down the title and author of the book they are using for this project in their reading response journals. They should also make a five senses chart in their journals to record the sensory details they find.

Modifications and Extensions

If you have a student who can not read well, you can place students in pairs for this activity. Students can work together to find sensory details--one student as the reader and the other as the recorder.

You can also assign books to students on their reading levels instead of allowing students to choose their own books for this writing lesson plan.

To extend this lesson plan, you can create a class goal such as, "We will find 100 sensory details in our books by the end of the day." This will excite students and give them a common goal to work toward. Students will need to report the details they find to you in order to keep track of the class's total amount. This reporting will allow students to hear sensory details other students are finding, which may provide hints for any students having difficulty with this project.