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'Indescribably' Excellent Descriptions



  • Arts & Humanities
    --Language Arts
    --Visual Arts


  • K-2
  • 3-5
  • 6-8
  • 9-12

Brief Description

Students train their eyes to look more closely at detail and imperfections as they write "indescribably" excellent descriptions of places, people, and things!


Students will

  • challenge one another to observe the subjects of their descriptive writing with a more focused eye,
  • learn to look beyond surface details when writing descriptions,
  • practice writing better descriptions of familiar surroundings,
  • achieve a score of 4 out of 5 or better on a descriptive writing assessment,
  • draw a picture to accompany their writing that demonstrates the same "eye for detail" required in their writing.


writing, description, descriptive, paragraph, detail, observe, observation

Materials Needed

  • writing materials
  • drawing materials (optional)

Lesson Plan

This lesson challenges students to look closely at people, places, and things in order to write detailed descriptions. Students typically write descriptions that represent little more than surface details. They write, "It was a perfect day; the sky was blue and the sun was bright." Or "The old man had a long beard and tattered clothing." Getting students to provide more detail than that can be a challenge! This lesson will challenge students to look beyond surface detail -- to look with a more focused eye at the subjects of their descriptions (whether real or imaginary) and to include descriptive detail in their writing.

Start the lesson by asking students to take a look around the classroom. What do they see? Give students five minutes to write a brief description of the classroom.

Ask for volunteers to share their descriptions. Typical responses will describe wall color, the number of doors and windows, and the arrangement of the desks.

Next, arrange students in groups of three or four. Challenge the groups of students to look around the classroom and observe with an eye for greater detail -- especially for imperfections they see in the classroom. Direct each group to create a list of their observations of details/imperfections.

After the groups have had five to ten minutes to make their lists, bring them together for a sharing session. Students will be amazed at the details they and their peers see that they hadn't noticed before! They have probably described things such as the blinds that are ajar, the smudges of marker on the whiteboard, the smell of a lunch left in the coatroom too long, books stacked every which way in the bookshelf, the faded curtains, a sheet of crumpled paper that missed its trashcan target, or the pencil shavings on the floor beneath the pencil sharpener.

Now it's time to repeat the activity that began this lesson. Challenge students to use their detailed observations to write a good descriptive paragraph about the classroom -- a paragraph that includes lots of detail to help the reader see the classroom as it really is.

Invite students to share their new descriptions. Talk about the differences between those descriptions and the ones they wrote at the start of the lesson. Ask questions such as the following: Are the second descriptions better? Why are they better? What have you learned today about writing better descriptions? How can you use what you have learned in your other writing?

Extension activity:
Have students draw pictures to accompany their descriptive paragraphs. Their pictures, like their writing, should reflect more detail than they would typically include.


Direct students to include at least five good details/imperfections as they write a descriptive paragraph about

  • the school building,
  • their bedrooms at home,
  • a favorite book character,
  • a picture or photograph of a person or place (calendar photos make excellent props),
  • an imaginary place.
Award 1 point for each of the five details included in students' paragraphs. All students' writing samples should receive a 4 or 5.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

Submitted By

Gary Hopkins

National Standards

NL-ENG.K-12.4 Communication Skills
NL-ENG.K-12.5 Communication Strategies
NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

See additional writing lessons in Make the "Write" Impression.

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