Total Sensory Description

Total Sensory Description

Project Summary
Although this is one of the more difficult types of writing for students, they show enormous growth in writing style after participation in this activity. It is extremely helpful, if the teacher holds a brainstorming session for listing adjectives related to the five senses. It was our experience that students tended to be strong in the use of "sight" words and weak in descriptions using the other senses.


  • Students describe a place using only one sense.
  • Students are grouped together, and each student describes the same place using a different sense.

Suggested Grade Level and Audience
5th through 12th

Estimated Time Required
2 to 4 weeks

Student Learning Objectives

  • To write about an autobiographical incident or a personal memoir
  • To expand the use of descriptive words
  • To practice using a thesaurus
  • To discuss the concept of mood and writing style
  • To understand the impact of using "sense" words when writing
  • To communicate knowledge and information to others
  • To practice writing, editing, and revising
  • To reinforce word processing skills
  • To communicate with a distant audience
  • To engage in electronic transfer of information

Writing Prompt

Your assignment is to think of a place you've been that creates vivid memories in your mind. Use descriptive words related to the 5 human senses to describe your place. Brainstorm, and come up with as many adjectives as possible. Use a dictionary or thesaurus to help you find even MORE descriptive words. Try and create word pictures and sensations.

Here are some possible experiences to describe:

Beach, Circus, Rainstorm, Camping in the woods, Easter, Snowy day, Hospital, Baking in the kitchen, Sports, Halloween, Christmas, Newly mowed lawn, Concert, Shopping Mall, Carnival or Fair, Earliest Childhood memory, Museum, Thanksgiving, 4th of July, First day of school, New Year's Eve, Your Birthday, School Dance, Other???

Here are the 5 senses you must describe:

1. SMELL: What smells, aromas, fragrances do you remember?

(i.e. rotten, spicy, balmy, musty, putrid, savory, acidic, pungent...)

2. TASTE: What tastes or flavors can your recall?

(keen, salty, peppery, repulsive, tart, tangy, delicious, luscious...)

3. TOUCH: What textures or sensations stand out in your mind?

(i.e. gentle, aching, tingling, mangy, velvety, rubbery, itchy...)

4. SOUND: What sounds, noises, songs, melodies are you reminded of?

(i.e. thundering, murmur, crackle, soothing, hissing, shrill, yelp...)

5. SIGHT: Describe the colors, shapes and appearances, of the sights you can visualize.

(i.e. angular, blurry, transparent, dim, foggy, fluorescent, glowing...)

Student Example: The Beach

It was a hot, sticky day at the beach. I could smell the charred hotdogs and sickly sweet marshmallows, as the aromas mixed with the odor of dying fish and drying seaweed. A few errant cool breezes felt brisk on my cheek, but the burning, gritty, sand tortured my feet. The waves swished in and out, as children laughed and annoying little flies buzzed in my ears. My throat ached from the mouthfuls of salt water that I could not avoid when I was bounced and tumbled in the foaming surf. etc...

TEACHERS: It is very helpful to make a list of possible adjectives in each category and post this list for students to refer to.



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