How to Teach Descriptive Writing to Elementary School Students


Descriptive writing is one of the core language skills you can teach elementary school students. By thinking about what details make a description come alive, your students will improve their writing and observational skills. Focus on the five senses, word choice, adjectives and adverbs.

  • Explain the importance of adjectives. As a class, start with a simple sentence such as, "The girl skips." Then have students suggest adjectives. Write these on the board and add your own. You will get something like, "The smelly, green-haired, brilliant, sideways, eighth-grade girl skips."

  • Do the same activity with adverbs. Build on the existing sentence. You might end up with "The smelly, green-haired, brilliant, sideways, eighth-grade girl skips quickly, quietly, exuberantly and painfully." Obviously, adverbs don't stack as readily as adjectives, so this step shouldn't go on for as long as Step 1.

  • Introduce your students to the purpose of descriptive words. Ask the class what the words told them about the girl. Ask them if the sentence is more interesting as it was originally, or with the added descriptive words. Ask if you would ever need to know that the girl who was skipping was "smelly" or "green-haired" (for example, to tell her apart from other skipping girls).

  • Have your students write their own descriptive sentences. Allow them to get as strange or outlandish as they wish.

  • Introduce sensory description. One fun way to do this is to take the class on a walk. Have them partner up. Then, have each partner take turns closing his eyes. Each student should describe what he hears, smells and feels to his partner. When your students get back to the class, have each student describe three sensations he had.

  • Have every student bring in an object from home. Ask them to bring in the strangest and most unusual objects they can find. Then put all the objects on a table. Have each student chose her favorite object and write a description that provides at least five details about it.


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