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Stimulating the Senses: The Art of the Descriptive Essay (page 2)

Stimulating the Senses: The Art of the Descriptive Essay

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Updated on Mar 11, 2008

When creating description, students should primarily write from memory, but add details from research of the place they visited – specifics they may not have known, like the length of the caves from its entrance to exit, for instance.

After they pen a draft, the fun begins. Teachers show how to beef up descriptions in various ways, but one method is using a sensory checklist. Since many students rely on what they see to describe something, they can use these steps to “dress up” each sentence they write.

Consider this sentence: I crawled through the spider caves.

Let’s take it through the sensory stages to expand it:

The Sight Step: What can I show my reader? What did I see?

I crawled through the pitch-black spider caves, seeing only my hands.

The Sound Step: What did I hear that isn’t obvious to my reader?

I crawled through the pitch-black spider caves, seeing only my hands, and heard the breathing of my classmate in front of me.

The Scent Step: Could I smell anything?

I smelled dirt as I crawled though the pitch-black spider caves, seeing only my hands, and heard the breathing of my classmate in front of me.

The Tactile Step: How I can make my reader touch what I touched?

I smelled dirt as my skin grazed the ground as I crawled through the pitch-black spider caves, seeing only my hands, and heard the breathing of my classmate in front of me.

The Taste Step: Did I taste anything that I could share with my reader?

I smelled dirt as my skin grazed the ground as I crawled through the pitch-black spider caves, seeing only my hands, and heard the breathing of my classmate in front of me, who kicked dust from his shoes into my mouth.

Passing every sentence through this process may take time, but students can use it as a preliminary way to bulk up sections of their work. It may be difficult to incorporate all five steps into a single sentence – it’s not impossible, though young writers may be more comfortable with expanding a sentence into several.

In the new, detailed sentence about the caves, there's an air of mystery and apprehension. If your child pays attention to these sensory details, their emotions – and the overall mood of the essay – will emerge naturally into a descriptive journey for reader and writer alike.

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