Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning


Communication: Using Descriptive Language

K20 Center, Keristy Nieto, Gage Jeter, Amy Retherford | Published: July 13th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th
  • Subject Subject English/Language Arts
  • Course Course
  • Time Frame Time Frame 2-3 class period(s)
  • Duration More 90 minutes


In this lesson, students will listen to a song while completing a painting activity. Students will collaborate to paint a list of descriptive words on their canvases based on the song. Considering the song lyrics as poetry, students will analyze the song, focusing on descriptive language and sensory details. Students will then create their own poems modeled after the song lyrics. Throughout this lesson, students will focus on various modes of communication and how different media affect understanding and interpretation. While this lesson is currently aligned only to 8th grade standards, it would be appropriate to teach in grades 6th through 11th, adjusting standards as needed.

Essential Question(s)

How do people communicate with one another? How does the type of communication we engage in affect our message? What sensory details and descriptions are present in our world? 



Students write about different modes of communication, paint in response to a song, and then rotate to other paintings, listing descriptive words that align with with each one.


Students edit and revise the set of descriptive words for their own paintings and contribute to a whole-class set of words related to the song and paintings.


Students analyze song lyrics as poetry, looking for figurative language, sensory details, and descriptive word choice.


Students create original poems modeled after song lyrics.


Students revisit the idea of varied communication and complete an Exit Ticket that focuses on what and how they learned. Students' paintings, analyses, and original poems are all options for assessment.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Copy paper, poster board, or white butcher paper

  • Painting supplies: watercolor paints, paintbrushes, water jars, paper towels, etc.

  • Writing materials: pens, pencils, and paper

  • What a Wonderful World Lyrics (attached, one per student)

  • Tweet Up (attached, one per student)

  • Student devices with Internet access (optional)


Display slide 3. As an introduction, ask students to engage in a Quick Write about ways in which they communicate with others on a regular basis. Ask them to write about specific types and examples of communication. After a few minutes, ask students to share with an Elbow Partner, and then ask for volunteers to share with the whole class.

Next, have students listen to a song. The song we've chosen for this lesson is "What a Wonderful World," written by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss and performed by Louis Armstrong.

Display slide 4. For the first round, play the What a Wonderful World video and ask students to listen to the song and read the lyrics without writing or doing anything. This enables students to use their listening skills as they focus on just the music and words, without being responsible for any sort of product.

Display slide 5 and get students set up with painting supplies. Play the song again and ask students to paint as they listen. They can paint their mood, reaction, thoughts, etc. The activity should be open-ended. Encourage students to express themselves freely and try a variety of colors, brushstrokes, etc. Repeat the song a few more times until students have had sufficient time to complete their paintings.

Display slide 6. Ask students to take out a sheet of notebook paper and lay it down next to their painting. Then ask them to take a pen or pencil and rotate to another student's painting for a Gallery Walk. As students view their classmate's painting, they should add one or two descriptive words to that painting's notebook paper. Students should think beyond the surface to describe the paintings. For example, naming colors and shapes is not as significant as using words such as swift, bold, connected, whole, etc. Allow students time to rotate to several paintings and continue adding to the descriptive word list next to each one.


Display slide 7 and have students return to their own paintings. Give students a few minutes to view the lists of words that their peers compiled to describe their paintings and make any revisions that they deem necessary. Encourage students to add at least three of their own descriptive words. Students can also delete words that they don't see as relevant to their paintings. When they are finished, they should have a detailed list of words that accurately describe their individual paintings that they can refer to as they write an original poem later in the lesson.

Display slide 8. Using a version of the Strike Out! instructional strategy, ask students to each identify the top three most descriptive words related to their paintings. After they've decided, ask them to come to the board and write the words or add them to the blank chart on slide 9. Once all students have had a chance to add their words, encourage students to analyze the list and work as a class to "strike out" words that they find less descriptive or not relevant. The end result should be a class list of descriptive words that students can refer to in addition to their individual lists as they write their poems.


Display slide 10. Have students revisit their Quick Writes to edit and revise their writing. As they revise, encourage students to consider the role of non-verbal communication and elaborate on the importance and relevance of the non-verbal communication types they've been exploring in this lesson—written words and pictures (referring to their experiences in the previous activities). Give students five minutes to review their original Quick Writes to edit as they see fit.

Display slide 11. Use the Think-Pair-Share strategy to structure a discussion with students about how their writing and viewpoints changed from the beginning of the lesson to its completion:

  1. Give students a few minutes to think about the discussion question and formulate their own response.

  2. Pair students up to discuss their individual responses and formulate a shared response. (Now is a great time to use a creative pairing strategy, or you can allow students to choose their own partner.)

  3. Ask each pair to share out with the class

Display slide 12 and pass out the attached What a Wonderful World lyrics to each student. Now that they've considered how people communicate, have students analyze the lyrics using a modified CUS and Discuss approach. Students should collaborate with their partners from the previous activity to locate instances of figurative language, sensory details, and descriptive word choice and discuss how each is used to enhance the communication style of the song lyrics. Ask students to annotate as follows:

  • C = circling the imagery (sensory details)

  • U = underlining the figurative language and labeling the type in the left margin

  • S = starring the descriptive words.

Once students have completed their annotations, engage students in a whole-class discussion and ask for volunteers to share out what they noticed in the poem, especially in terms of figurative language, sensory details, and descriptive word choice. Mark students' observations and annotations on a class copy of the song lyrics.


Display slide 13. Instruct each student to create a poem based on their paintings.

Display slide 14 to review the definitions of figurative language, sensory details, and descriptive words. Students should focus on these elements as they write with the goal of making their paintings come to life.

Return to slide 13 to review the rest of the guidelines for the poem. Ask students to get out their individual lists of descriptive words and their lyrics to "What a Wonderful World," as they'll be referring to these as they write. Students should incorporate descriptive words from their own lists and from the class list, and they should model their poems after the lyrics to "What a Wonderful World" both in terms of structure and theme. Students' poems should use the following structure:

  1. Five stanzas

  2. Four lines per stanza (except for stanza 5, which has two lines)

  3. (Optional) A rhyme scheme similar to "What a Wonderful World" (The song's primary rhyme scheme is aabc, but stanza 3 is aabb if students want to deviate.)

After students have a clear understanding of the requirements, give them time to write. Display the class list of descriptive words for them to refer to during this time.


Display slide 15. As an Exit Ticket, students reflect on what they've learned about nonverbal communication through their experiences in this lesson.

Have students get out a sheet of paper, or pass out copies of the Tweet Up template. Structuring this reflection using the Tweet Up instructional strategy focuses students' thinking and requires them to use precise and concise language. Students' responses should address the lesson's essential questions (repeated on slide 16) and be limited to 140 characters or less (including spaces and punctuation). Responses should also include a hashtag that sums up the main idea or key point from what students learned. Encourage students to refer to their Quick Writes and other products from this lesson to assist them with their reflections.

When they have finished writing, ask students to share their responses with a small group or with the whole class.

In addition to the Exit Ticket, students' paintings, descriptive word lists, song lyric annotations, and original poems are all potential options for assessment. Consider giving students a choice of which piece from this lesson they are most proud or certain of and have them turn that in for a grade.