How to Use More Descriptive Details in Your Writing

Writing using descriptive details

In our last blog Building Mind Maps for Descriptive Writing we explored a descriptive writing class for our younger students. In this blog How to Use More Descriptive Details in Your Writing we will focus on our week nine class for our older students in Years 4-6.

Descriptive writing enables the writer to describe a person, place or thing in such a way that a picture is formed in the reader’s mind. Successfully depicting an event through descriptive writing involves paying close attention to the details by using all of the five senses. When writers do a good job of describing a person, place or thing in their stories, they are able to help the readers create a visual image in their minds.

We have talked before about the importance of showing your reader rather than telling them. Compare the following sentences. “The water was cold”. This sentence is telling us that the water was cold. “The icy water rose, making me immediately shiver as goose bumps appeared all over my body”. This sentence is showing us just how cold the water really is.  Which sentence gave you, the reader, a better visual image of what is happening?

Showing the reader using descriptive details

In the class, our students participated in activities designed to help them to show their reader rather than tell them. As an example, this was the activity centred on a person. Students were given the following sentence “The man was old”. They were asked if they thought this was a showing or telling sentence and why. Many telling sentences have the verb followed by the adjective, such as “was old”. As a class the students viewed an image of an old man and discussed what physical traits they felt that the old man had.  Many of the descriptions used, such as “deep wrinkles, white hair, etc.”, did not come out and say that the man is “old”, but rather showed it through characteristics. Similar activities were completed constructing showing sentences for a place and a thing.

Using the five senses to create imagery

In The BFG Roald Dahl uses descriptive details to help paint a picture for his audience. Dahl often uses many of the five senses (sight, smell, taste, sound and touch) to help with these descriptions. The children listened to the first chapter whilst thinking about and noting down examples of the five senses. They also listened for descriptive details and the different ways Roald Dahl catches the reader’s attention.

Descriptive details five senses

As a comparison the students then watched the first few minutes of an animated movie of The BFG. Discussions revealed that it is much easier to portray the sense of sound in a movie than in a book. Students offered suggestions of how they could effectively describe sound by showing it to their reader rather than telling them using their descriptive writing skills.

Descriptive writing

It was now time for the children to implement these skills and write their own descriptive introduction. The students were given a setting as a basis for their story. They were assisted in planning a mind map of things they would use to describe their setting and encouraged to use the five senses. The main objective of this exercise was for the students to describe the setting and elements of the story using descriptive details to show rather than tell. You can see some wonderful examples in the images of the student’s descriptive writing.

using descriptive details












Want to know more about Leap into Literacy?

Leap into Literacy provides small tutoring classes with a focus on reading comprehension and writing. Using techniques that allow students to become creative in the learning process, sessions are fun and achieve maximum results. Classes are held in Drummoyne and other Inner West locations and are available for children in Years K-6. We offer a free trial class so contact us to find out how Leap into Literacy can help your child. Follow us on Facebook for more tips and tricks.