Grade: Senior

#2263. Gateway to More Descriptive Writing

Reading/Writing, level: Senior
Posted Wed May 23 05:37:45 PDT 2001 by Shannon Coble (
Wilson County Schools, Lebanon, Tennessee, USA
Materials Required: Chalkboard, pencils, paper, thesaurus
Activity Time: 15 minutes
Concepts Taught: Students will be able to use more precise descriptive words in their writing.

Many teachers of high school English and Literature are exasperated at the pitiful vocabulary that our students use in their writing. It is not that our students do not know the more age-appropriate vocabulary; it is that they do not know how to find the "perfect" word.

I list 10 general adjectives on the board (blue, happy, sad, funny, pink, pretty, long, short, green, heavy)

I tell my students to divide their papers into three columns and to copy the ten words on the board into the first column.

For each word in the first column, I ask my students to think of a more specific word or phrase and enter it into the second column. I give them a couple of minutes to do this.

After each student has finished I ask students to share some of their more specific words with the rest of the class. I make a new column on the board and list student suggestions.

For the third column on their paper, I ask the students to once again think of a word or phrase that is more specific than the words or phrases in the second column. I give them a few more minutes and then ask for students to share once again.

Once we have several new specific words or phrase on the board for the original ten words I gave them, I talk to my students about descriptive writing. I tell them that words in the first column are not very specific and often the words and phrases in the second and third columns are more appropriate. I use the word "blue" as my example. I explain to my students that if I said the vase is blue, everyone in the room might imagine a different shade of blue; however, I want my audience to know exactly what shade of blue the vase is so I should say, "The vase is dark blue like the sky is the instant after dusk but before night falls."

I then assign my students a descriptive paper and encourage them to be as specific as possible. I remind them that their audience should be able to feel, taste, touch, see, and smell everything that they felt, tasted, touched, saw, and smelled as they wrote their essay.