When students are writing descriptions in stories, narratives, or even poetry, they should use sensory details to bring the setting alive and make it more real to the reader. Third through fifth grade students often have trouble including details from all five senses and ones unique to the setting.
Once students are familiar with sensory details, they should focus on them in their writing. Students should begin writing descriptions for a narrative or a story. They do not have to write only a description for this writing lesson plan. You want them to continue to work on the pieces they are currently writing as long as sensory details fit into the story somewhere. If students are writing a report, they should switch to a more descriptive passage for this writing lesson plan.
Give students as much time as they need to write at least a page or two for the next part of the lesson plan. While students are writing descriptions, remind them to include sensory details in their work with questions such as, "Have you included how a place smells?" and so on. For extra practice, students can write about favorite books in their writing journals and include sensory details that the author, such as Judy Blume, writes in her books.
The Body of the Lesson
- Students should have five different colored crayons or pencils. It will help if everyone in the room uses the same color for each sense. So assign the senses colors, such as red for smell, blue for sight, and so on. You may want to make a small chart with this information that stays in the front of the room during this writing lesson plan.
- On a smartboard or overhead projector, put up a piece of your own writing. Ask students to find sensory details in your description. When they find a detail, ask them which sense it belongs with. Then use that corresponding color to underline or circle that detail on your work.
- When students have found all your details, ask them to look at your writing. You now have visual cues, with the different colors, of which sensory details you have used. Ask them if they see all five colors on your description. If not, is there a way that makes sense to fit in the sense you left out? For example, if you are describing your backyard, taste details might not fit into your story naturally, and so explain that you don't always have to have every sense, but three or four different senses represented are important.
- Revise your story with students to add a few more sensory details. Sensory details can be worked into stories easily through dialog tags. For example: "I am so tired I don't think I can pull another weed." Mom ran her hands through the cool, wet soil.
- Pair students together and ask them to find the details in their stories. Students should use the five colors to circle the details. With their partners, they should evaluate their writing and revise as you modeled for them.
Ask students to share with the class their feelings, experiences, and/or results from color-coding their writing descriptions. In this writing lesson plan, it is important to emphasize that more than one sense needs to be included in description, but all five do not have to be in every scene. It is also important for students to realize that sensory details need to be worked naturally into the story or narrative. Both of these will take practice.