Sensory Information

Sensory Information

The Situation

You want your students to use the five senses to develop their writing.

The Solution

Sensory information is an essential starting point to develop student writing. Students need to understand that stories need to be brought to life. Their characters are not merely sitting in spaceship in space. I have never been to space and have zero concept of what that feels like. Drawing upon the sensory information within the scene allows students to capture realism that is not obvious to the reader.

Check out this tool for develop students understanding of sensory information.

  1. Show students an image like the one below:

2. Students record what they can:

  • See
  • Smell
  • Hear
  • Touch
  • Taste (optional based on image)

Here is an example:

  • See: Green pastures, small cottage, desolate pathway
  • Smell: Clean
  • Hear: whistling wind
  • Touch: grass – sharp or prickly

3. Model to students how to write a paragraph using the words that have written down. They need to jump between the senses, without focusing purely on one. For example, Alone beneath a hidden emerald valley, an empty cottage rests beside a family of trees. A whistling wind finds itself between the trees, crawling through the branches and running its fingers between the leaves. Tick each item that you have mentioned on your list.

Ask students where you have mentioned metaphors or adjectives. Show students that you can substitute words. For example, I chose emerald over green. Students need to understand that language is versatile and that substituting allows them to demonstrate a deeper understanding of word choice.

4. Now, it is your students turn. Encourage them to work through their list, providing detailed descriptions.

5. Once students have written for 5 or 10 minutes, ask them to trade their work with their partner. Their partner needs to identify where the adjectives and metaphors have been used and offer feedback on new ways to describe the image.

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