Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Who Am I?

Creating and Editing Descriptive Writing

Keristy Nieto, Susan McHale | Published: November 22nd, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 7th, 8th
  • Subject Subject English/Language Arts
  • Course Course Composition, Creative Writing
  • Time Frame Time Frame 2-3 class period(s)
  • Duration More 100 minutes


In this lesson, students will use self-reflection to create a piece of descriptive writing. Students will use sensory details, organizational strategies, and the revision process to produce a short descriptive piece of writing.

Essential Question(s)

How can sensory details add to a piece of writing? What makes me who I am?



Students complete a focused free-write to begin crafting paragraphs for the body of a writing assignment regarding their identity.


Students view a short video that explains how to add sensory details to sentences, then brainstorm descriptive words pertaining to the five senses.


Students read a blog excerpt and identify the sensory details in the reading. Then, students write their paragraphs with added sensory details.


Students peer edit with partners, providing and receiving feedback on their paragraphs. Then, students complete a rewrite based on the peer editing process.


In groups of four, students read each other's revised paragraphs, discussing commonalities and strong descriptive language.


  • Sensory Word List handout (attached)

  • Peer Revision Checklist handout (attached)

  • My Life in a Photograph handout (attached)

  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • "Sensory Details and Memoirs" excerpt from a blog by Lee Martin (attached)

  • 3-2-1 Exit Ticket: Writer's Review (attached, one per group)

  • Block of sharp cheddar cheese (optional)

  • Highlighters


Begin the lesson with the attached Lesson Slides. After displaying the title slide, move to the essential questions on slide 3. Pass out the attached graphic organizer titled "My Life in a Photograph" and continue to slide 4. Invite students to participate in a focused free-write. Set the linked timer in this slide for five minutes. Remind students to write continuously until the timer runs out, even if it doesn't feel like high-quality writing. Links to both the timer and the music are found on slide 4 and in the Resources below.

Call on volunteers from the class to share a few answers from each section of the handout.


Tell students they will build on parts of their free-write to create descriptive paragraphs about themselves. They will do so by using sensory details, because most readers can relate to the five senses—sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch. To give an idea of how to create sensory details in writing, show slide 5 and share this video with the class. The full URL can be found in the slide notes and in the Resources below.

After the video, assign each student to a partner. Display slide 6. Using the image of a block of cheddar cheese as an example, ask partners to work together to create a sentence that describes the visual "look" of a block of cheddar cheese. Encourage students to think in terms of describing the cheese to a blind person. How descriptive can they be? Allow a few minutes for partner discussion and writing. Ask each group to share their best example.

Display slide 7. Ask students to now consider the sensory detail of touch. How does it feel? How can they describe the texture of cheddar cheese? Can they think of other things that feel similar which they might compare it to? Allow a few minutes for partners to discuss and create a descriptive sentence. If available, allow one student at a time to touch the block of cheddar cheese. Ask each group to share their descriptions.

Display slide 8, which gives directions for the Pair Square activity. Combine pairs to make groups of four. Pass out a copy of the attached Sensory Word List handout to each student. Ask each group to add three more descriptive words to the list for each of the five senses. In a round-robin style, identify one of the senses and have students call out one sensory description their group added. Have the rest of the class add these words to their own lists. Continue this activity until students have added another three to four sensory words to each of the five senses.


Now that they have practiced writing with sensory detail, tell students they will look for sensory details in someone else's writing. Pass out the attached excerpt "Sensory Details and Memoirs," by Lee Martin. This short piece is about the author's childhood memories. If necessary, see Martin's original blog post here. Display the directions for this activity, using the strategy Categorical Highlighting, on slide 9. Have students work individually to highlight words or phrases that lend sensory detail to these paragraphs.

Allow 5–7 minutes for this activity. Ask students to share examples of sensory details they found in the excerpt. If desired, this activity can also be used as an additional lesson assessment alongside those in the Evaluation section below.

Ask students to revisit their "My Life in a Photograph" free-write and choose two topics they wrote about. Students should now begin developing two paragraphs based on these topics, adding sensory details. Display the directions for this activity on slide 10. Ask students to develop their topics into at least two paragraphs using complete sentences. The Sensory Word List developed by the class may serve to help students expand their ideas into descriptive sentences and paragraphs.


After each student has completed two paragraphs, pair each student again with a partner. Pass out the attached Peer Revision Checklist handout and discuss with students how to peer review someone else's writing. Students will need a set of highlighters for this activity. Move to slide 11. Ask students to let the Peer Revision Checklist be their guide as they trade papers and review each others' work.

After students have completed the activity, have them return the reviewed paragraphs to their partners, along with the Peer Review Checklist and comments. Ask each student to edit their writing based upon their partner's notes. Finally, have students should make a clean, final copy of their writing to turn in with the Peer Revision Checklist attached.


Depending on your needs, you have several options for lesson assessment. The students' edited paragraphs serve as one assessment. The Categorical Highlighting activity in the Explain section can serve as an optional assessment. Two other options are detailed below.