A simple visualization exercise focuses students on the sensory impressions of a favorite place; the activity helps improve their descriptive writing skills.
Students understand they can write richer and more interesting descriptions if they use all their senses.
writing, descriptions, descriptive writing, visualization, visualize, senses
In this lesson, students write a descriptive paragraph. They might all write about the same place (for example, a beach, a crowded sports stadium, or a rain forest) or they might each choose a different place to describe. The following activity, which takes about 10 minutes, relaxes students and focuses their attention, as it engages them in visualizing the sights and smells of a particular setting.
Following is a process you use might use to help students relax and focus:
- Tell students you are going to turn out the lights and close the shades. Instruct them to close their eyes and put their heads down on their desks.
- Tell students to take a deep breath... and another deep breath.
- Speak slowly, and emphasize slow movements, as you engage them in muscle stretching activities -- for example, scrunching their toes, lifting their feet an inch or two off the floor and slowly wiggling them, slowly stretching the calf muscles of their legs, stretching their fingers out and then slowly closing them to form a fist, turning their heads slowly from side to side...
- Next -- still speaking slowly and quietly -- tell them they are about to enter a dimly lit elevator. The elevator has plush, deep red carpeting. It is cozy and inviting. Encourage them to look around inside the elevator and appreciate the luxury and soft comfort of their surroundings.
- Tell them the elevator door is closing and they are traveling down from the tenth floor. Slowly, calmly, quietly drawl out the floor numbers as they pass: "10... 9... 8..."
- When the elevator reaches the ground floor (the students' heads are still on their desks), announce that they have arrived at their destination. (In this example, let's say all students are visiting the beach.) As the elevator door opens, encourage students to slowly scan the panorama they "see." Instruct them to look to the far left for about 20 or 30 seconds; ask them to soak up all the sights and sounds they see and notice the detail. Notice the colors, the shapes, the motions. Slowly, eventually, when students have taken in the entire panorama, ask them to look behind them. The elevator is no longer there, just the sights and sounds of the beach.
- Then ask them to turn their heads just and inch or so and encourage them to notice the same things... ask them to listen carefully for sounds that might pervade the environment.
- Then ask them to turn their heads just and inch or so and encourage them to notice the same things... ask them to listen carefully for smells that might be wafting through the air.
- Then ask them to turn their heads just and inch or so and encourage them to notice the same things... ask them to note the tastes (if any) and to notice how things around them feel.
- After five minutes or so of this, have them take one last look around and "step" back onto the elevator for their slow ride to the tenth floor.
- Finally, tell them to stand back because the elevator door is about to shut. Announce the floor numbers with gradually increasing speed as they return to a place where they will step back into reality.
- Ask students to lift their heads as you turn the lights on and open the shades. Then instruct them to grab a pencil and paper and write as quickly as they can what they experienced.
When students finish writing, they proofread their work before forming "peer evaluation" groups with three of their peers. They use a rubric to evaluate how many senses were used in their writing; all students' writing should have employed at least four different senses. This evaluation is not nearly as important, however, as the richness of the language and the experience of the reader as he reads the piece; peers are asked to comment on the effectiveness of the piece.
Michael Pratley, Frankfort High School in Frankfort, Michigan
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