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Descriptive Writing Activities for Middle School

Instructor: Shanna Fox

Shanna has been part of the whirlwind world of teaching middle school for 20 years. She has a Master of Education degree in instructional design.

Helping your middle school students develop their descriptive writing skills can be a challenge. These activities will assist you in guiding students through the process of drafting and revising their writing to build more descriptive end products.

Descriptive Writing Activities

These descriptive writing activities are best utilized with individuals, although you could also allow students to work in partners to share and revise their ideas. Using these activities, you will be able to guide your middle school students as they utilize their observational skills, explore their personal experiences, and activate their senses to enhance their writing. Having your own writing samples or writing along with your students is essential in these activities and can greatly benefit students as they develop as writers.

Outdoor Tour

In this activity, students will walk around campus and record what they see. However, the instruction begins in the classroom before venturing outside. Start off by giving them a clear demonstration of how descriptive writing is structured. Show students a nature picture. Then, provide examples of how a simple description of the image could be enhanced to become a strong piece of descriptive writing. For example, if the picture includes a tree and a building: They could write a simple statement, ''A tree stands near the building.'' Alternatively, they could enhance it descriptively by writing something like, ''The towering tree loomed above the brick building, casting shadows on the wall. Its green leaves glistened with morning dew, and its branches reached up toward the bright morning sky.'' Allow students to partner and practice the skill of descriptive enhancement based on a few different nature images.

Now, it's time to venture outdoors. Provide clipboards to students and have them bring along notebook paper and a writing utensil. Take students on a tour of the campus or of a nearby outdoor space, such as a park. Ask them to record observations about the various images they see along the way. Encourage them to write down descriptive phrases or sentences related to what they see. Provide adequate time for students to take in their surroundings and create carefully phrased descriptions.

When you return to the classroom, provide time for students to share their descriptive phrasing with partners or teams. Have them come up with additions and adjustments, as well as to select their team's shining star phrasing. Each team can then share the ''shining star'' phrases with the class. To extend this activity, you can have students create a small poster with their best phrase and an accompanying illustration to post around the classroom.

  • Materials: nature pictures, descriptive writing example(s), paper, writing utensils, clipboards, coloring utensils and blank paper (for extension)

Memory Interviews

Every student comes to class with fuel for descriptive writing: their own memories. In this activity, students will sift through childhood or recent memories to come up with inspiration for descriptive writing. Then, they will partner and interview one another about a memory in order to build a descriptive version of it.

Start by providing students an example from your own life. Give them a couple of sentences, such as ''I went to my aunt's house for the holiday. We had a great time.'' Next, ask students if they can picture it in their minds. The answer will most likely be no. Give students an opportunity to ask you questions about the event. Record the questions and provide your answers to them. Then, revise the description to include the missing information. This version should be clearer and more descriptive.

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