- How to start: use a writing stimulus
- Think about the sensory details
- Plan and structure your writing
Writing is a key skill for kids and teens to develop in schools. Writing descriptively can be a hard task for students of all abilities, especially for younger kids who aren’t quite sure how to use their imagination and put it down into writing yet. But don’t worry – writing is a skill you can develop, and there are plenty of ways to help the learning process along. With practice, you can learn how to write descriptively using a simple checklist.
Read on for our tips on how to approach the writing process methodically – this can help you draw readers into your stories. With these top tips, you’ll be writing descriptive text in no time!
How to start: use a writing stimulus
A descriptive text is a text that wants you to picture what is being described with words. Why is this important? Because books, unlike movies, are not visual. Reading books requires readers to use their imagination and have a clear picture in their heads of what they’re reading. It's by no means easy to write in this style consistently! 📚
When you’re practising descriptive writing, it’s great to use a visual stimulus to engage your imagination. This is a great starting point for tackling those blank white pages. For younger children getting started with descriptive text, images from The Literacy Shed are great because they are imaginative, age-appropriate and provoke responses.
You can do descriptive writing exercises on your own, with a group of other pupils or with your parents. A great place to start is to choose an interesting image and start by writing down 5-10 pieces of vocabulary that the image provokes. Remember to include a range of verbs, nouns and adjectives.
Want to go a step further? Use a physical or digital thesaurus to expand your vocabulary choices. It’s a great idea to consider using less commonly chosen words – this will help your writing stand out.
Example: Try turning green, foggy, scary, cold and dark into mossy, misty, frightening, glacial and inky.
Think about the sensory details
Writing doesn’t need to be chronological, and it’s really important to plan and let your brain explore before writing in prose. After you’ve had a go at responding to a stimulus and creating a vocabulary bank, it’s time to turn these into advanced sentences by experimenting. ✍️
Follow these five steps, and take note of our example below:
Add adjectives and adverbs to deepen your writing. Writing descriptively is about giving the reader lots of extra details to aid their imagination.
Stimulate the senses (hearing, touch, taste, sight, smell) throughout the text. Employing the reader’s five senses encourages them to engage beyond what they see.
Use similes and metaphors (comparing objects to other things) to vary your writing. Don’t forget connectives to piece it all together!
Add character details so they become personal to you. Don’t forget, you can pretend that objects, as well as people, have emotions.
Use other figures of speech, like alliteration and hyperbole, to show that you have thought about your writing. The key is conscious crafting and going one sentence at a time.
Teacher model: Above the mossy woodland floor, tall, angry trees swayed in the evening wind, slowly losing their last leaves to the arrival of winter.
Plan and structure your writing
We teach students to plan for as long as they can before they start to write, helping them to feel confident before they approach a blank page. Once you have a bank of creative vocabulary, some exploratory sentences and a few images ready to go, it’ll be much easier to start writing.
It’s wise to make key choices about the style of writing you want to do before you put pen to paper. Chronological? Flashback? Start with small details and then zoom out to the rest of the image? The more careful choices are made in the early planning stages, the more detailed and purposeful your writing will be. ✔️
Make a paragraph plan before you write. This creates a writing frame to keep referring back to. This is especially useful when you aren’t quite sure where you’re going next. Here’s our teacher model:
Paragraph one - The narrator looks upwards and notices the last few leaves falling off of the trees in the wintery woodland. She notices one leaf in particular which starts to move with a life of its own.
Paragraph two - The narrator tracks the leaf and starts to run to follow it as it darts about the forest, on the journey it passes different areas to describe; nests, a stream, a cottage.
Paragraph three - The leaf lands at the foot of the cottage porch. The narrator notices a bright light shining from beneath the gap, and knocks on the door.
Start to turn this plan into your actual description and you’re in an excellent position to start writing, with a clear idea of where you’re headed. Remember to go back, re-read, change and edit your writing as needed; no text will be perfect the first time around! 📓
Our GoStudent tutors use a range of strategies to help kids and teens develop their writing capabilities. Book a free tutoring session with GoStudent today if you’d like to see your confidence and skills in writing descriptively grow!