Grade: Middle
Subject: Language

#2385. Using Sensory Details

Language, level: Middle
Posted Thu Nov 8 07:49:32 PST 2001 by Shelley Medina (
Glen-Este High School, Cincinnati, OH USA
Materials Required: Spices, sandpaper, cotton balls, the color red, music, and food
Activity Time: 1 class period--works best with block

CP 9 English Block

Objective: Students will gain a better understanding of sensory details. Students will be able to write using sensory details to enhance their writing style.

Motivation: Not only is this a good preparatory exercise for the writing proficiencies, they will be learning through their senses--they will get to smell, taste, feel, see, and taste. Food is always a motivator.

Materials Needed: baked goods (I asked the kids to bring in something to eat--they did not have to provide for the whole class, although I encouraged this--they only had to provide enough for themselves); spices--I am using chili powder, butter substitute, onion powder, allspice, and cinnamon (with the labels removed); sandpaper and cotton balls; a selection of classical music (the sounds of a car crash would also work well); and the color red.

Procedure: Discuss what sensory details are--we have covered this class already, but remind them. Tell them that they are going to do an exercise that will enhance their abilities to use sensory details beyond saying--it smells good or tastes like lemons. Note: I recommend eating last--to maintain control over the class.
Questions to ask:
1--using as many descriptive words as possible, describe the color red like you would describe it to a blind person who has never seen the color.
2--Pass around the spice bottle and tell students to smell them--do not blurt out loud what they think the smell is. Instead, they are to write down the images that the smells evoke--as vividly as possible. ( I did this by rows--giving each row a spice bottle)
3--Have students close their eyes. After they are closed, pass out small samples of sandpaper and cottonballs. Tell the students to take a minute or so--feel the objects and then to write down all details about the object.
4--Playing a selection of music (I am using a techo/classical piece of a violinist named Vanessa Mae.) tell the students to list all the sounds that they hear. Some may call is noise--others may be able to distinguish the various nuances of the song. I also asked the students to describe any scenes that the song evoke--I had some really cool responses--from kids who normally do not respond to anything.
5--Call on students to share what they have so far.
6--Pass out their food items. Give the opportunity to exchange or share. After everyone has something to eat--tell the students that they must use all the sensory details of sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste to describe their piece of food. They must write one paragraph using all the sensory details to describe their food item without directly coming out and saying what they are eating. I will collect their paragraph and choose to read several of them out loud and ask students to identifying what is being eaten.

Homework: Follow up and homework--Students are to pick a favorite item--it may be their pet, food, piece of music, etc and they are to write one paragraph describing it using all sensory details as. They are not allowed to say what they are describing.