Descriptive writing is one of my favorite types of writing to teach. If you pick the right topic, it can be completely relatable to your students. They can get excited about the lesson, which in turn keeps them engaged throughout the unit. Talking about things they love is one of their favorite things to do. So. today I’m sharing the BEST way to teach descriptive writing in your classroom.
What is Descriptive Writing?
Descriptive writing is a type of writing where the author uses details that will paint a picture using their words. Writers will have a detailed visual image of certain places, people, things, or events. Using our 5 senses: taste, sight, hearing, touch, and sound will elevate the entire experience for the reader.
Descriptive Writing in the Classroom
Over the years, I have found one descriptive writing lesson that stands out above the rest. It is super effective because it teaches the skill while peaking my students’ interests. This activity allows them to use their imaginations, so they stay engaged throughout the entire unit. Involving others (their parents and another class of students) in the lesson helps to raise the bar and push my students to want to be even more successful. Plus, it involves monsters. What more could you ask for?
Monsters & More
Every child has had some type of interaction with a “monster.” It may be the one living under their bed, the one who hides out in the closet, the one in their favorite bedtime story, or the one who visits them when they’re lonely. Regardless of how they know their monster, they’ll be ready to tell you and their friends all about him/her. And . . . if for some reason they don’t personally know a monster, they won’t have any trouble imagining one up on the fly.
Describe Your Monster
This Descriptive Writing Monster Unit is perfect for grades 3 through 6. If you teach third graders, be prepared to provide additional support as this will be a new concept for them. Older students will have already been introduced to the concept of descriptive writing so they can work on honing their skills.
In this unit, students will draw their own monster and then complete a descriptive writing activity based on their creation. The goal is to write with such a good description that someone else can accurately draw the monster without seeing it.
Let’s break down the BEST way to teach descriptive writing.
Day 1: Descriptive Writing Mini-Lesson
Begin your descriptive writing unit with a mini-lesson. I like to teach this using a PowerPoint describing what exactly descriptive writing is and why it is important. We discuss how descriptive writing creates a picture in the reader’s mind using the 5 senses.
Then, we go through short interactive paragraphs which use descriptive words of each of the senses.
Students take turns coming to the board to identify what they can hear, taste, touch, smell, etc. We end day 1 with an activity where students come up with as many adjectives as they can for each of the 5 senses.
Day 2: Drawing & Listening
On day 2 of the unit, I provide them with a sample monster writing activity. They read through it and draw the monster as they read. Another option is to read the sample aloud to them. You may need to read it several times. This makes a great listening comprehension activity.
This activity helps experience finding details in the writing and converting them into a picture. After they draw the monster from the description, I let students compare it to the original monster drawing created by the author. It’s also fun to compare with classmates too. I like to have them complete a Venn Diagram noting the similarities and differences between their drawing and the authors.
Now it’s time for the fun! Students get to draw their very own monster. I remind them that they can create their monster however they would like, but they will be describing their monster in writing in the days to come. I love seeing what they come up with.
Day 3: Descriptive Writing
Let the writing begin! Students will write their rough drafts today. I usually provide them with a template to follow. This gives them specific instructions and direction so they can spend less time worrying about what to do and more time focusing on their descriptive writing.
This also helps to ensure that they include all the necessary details in their writing to describe their monster.
Day 4: Rough Drafts & Editing
Begin the day by wrapping up their descriptive writing rough drafts, and begin the peer editing process.
If you don’t usually peer edit in your classroom, I highly recommend it. It is a great way to truly see their understanding levels. You’ll get to see some students shine as they explain the process to their partners.
I also love to use this time as an opportunity to get parents involved. One night of homework will be to take their rough draft home and have their parents read it and create the monster from their writing. This is a great way for students to see how their descriptions are and to make any changes or additions to their writing.
Day 5: Final Drafts
It’s time to wrap up the editing process and begin the final drafts. By this point, students are focusing on those details and making sure that every part of their monster has been properly described.
If you have time, send it home one more time for parents to read and draw the monster.
Have students make any final changes and edits to the monster descriptive writing. Then they will complete their final draft.
Day 6: Test it Out
This is probably the favorite day of this unit. This is when students will get the writing of another student and a blank piece of paper. They will read the description and then draw the monster.
It is so much fun to pass out your student’s descriptive writing work and have another student draw their monsters. You can trade with students in your class, or if you have multiple classes completing the activity – it is always fun to trade with another class.
My students always love getting to see their work come to life. And . . . it definitely raises the stakes and pushes them to succeed when they know that their writing will be used for this purpose.
Day 7: Descriptive Collaborations
The fun doesn’t stop after the big draw. In fact, a lot of the learning happens here when you hand back your students’ original monster drawings and the drawing of their peers. Have students compare the two. What is the same? What is different? If you can, have the students meet up to discuss their drawings.
This is such a crucial part of the unit. I provide them with a peer discussion guide to be sure they stay on track and have guided, meaningful discussions.
Challenge your students to see if they can find the areas where they could add some description to their writing to get those final details to be properly described.
Day 8: Wrap it Up With a Poster
Students will create a monster poster. It will display their descriptive writing, their monster drawing, and their peer’s drawing. It is essentially a “mine” and “yours” poster.
Finally, they will fill out a monster writing reflection page to end the unit.
Want All of the Monster Descriptive Writing Fun in One Spot?
Grab the Descriptive Writing Monster Unit so you will have everything you need to get started. I know you and your students will love this comprehension unit. It truly is the BEST way to teach descriptive writing.
- A day-by-day pacing guide (8 days total)
- A descriptive writing mini-lesson via PPT (29 slides- with student interactive worksheet)
- A teacher example (writing and drawing)
- A fun monster activities art project built into the writing unit
- Descriptive writing guide for students
- Reflection Guide
- Peer Evaluation
- Bulletin Board banner
- Descriptive writing anchor chart
- Compare/contrast worksheets
This unit will allow you to avoid the trickiness of teaching descriptive writing to elementary students. It is such a fun and interactive activity that will keep them completely engaged. They’ll be begging for more.
Save it for Later!
Be sure to save this idea to your favorite ELA Pinterest board. You’ll be all set and ready to go with the BEST way to teach descriptive writing.