Descriptive Essay Lesson Plan

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

What elements are essential for a descriptive essay? This lesson plan explores the characteristics of descriptive essays using a video lesson. An essay writing activity gives students practice with the nuances of descriptive writing.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • list key characteristics of the descriptive essay
  • discuss the role of sensory language in descriptive essays
  • summarize the role of illustrative language in the descriptive essay


45 to 90 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Use precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and sensory language to convey experiences and events.


Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1-3 above.)


With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.


  • Two short essays, one descriptive and one persuasive
  • Paper copies of the worksheet from the associated video lesson


  • Begin by asking for two student volunteers.
  • Have one of the volunteers read the descriptive essay aloud to the class.
  • Have the second student volunteer read the persuasive essay aloud to the class.
    • How would you describe each of the essays that were read in class?
    • Was one of the essays more descriptive than the other?
    • What type of language made the essay descriptive?
  • Play the video lesson Descriptive Essay: Definition, Examples & Characteristics, pausing it at 0:30.
    • What is a descriptive essay?
    • Can you identify some examples of illustrative language from the descriptive essay read in class?
  • Play the video lesson again, pausing it this time at 2:01.
    • How is sensory language used in descriptive essays?
    • Which words from the descriptive beach essay presented in the video lesson described the sensory experience?
  • Play the video lesson again, pausing it at 4:06.
    • What is vivid or illustrative language?
    • Why is it critical in the descriptive essay?
    • How do similes and metaphors bolster descriptive writing?
  • Play the reminder of the video lesson for the class.
    • What is the goal for general to particular organization in a descriptive essay?
    • What is spatial organization?
    • What is chronological organization and when is it useful?
  • Hand out the paper copies of the worksheet to the class, one to each student.
  • Have students work independently to complete the worksheet.
  • When all students have finished the worksheet, review each question and answer with the class, allowing students to make any needed corrections to their papers along the way.

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