Total Sensory Description
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
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
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
(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.