WEEKLY DISCUSSIONS: Teaching Descriptive Writing Through Visualization and the Five Senses

This time we discussed an interesting article called “Teaching Descriptive Writing Through Visualization and the Five Senses” for Katherine Carter from English Teaching Forum, Vol. 53, No. 2, 2015

Here Kartherine introduced an interesting idea that she applied with her “intermediate level English class…. first year university students in Namibia” who suffered from problems with writing assignments.

Katherine thought of attracting their attention and gaining their interest first by reading a short text or poem “that is especially colourful and tap into our senses, and in the class, I chose All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan.”

As they read, she encouraged them:
1.                 To visualize
2.                 Had students underline phrases that connected to one of their five senses
3.                 Share with a partner
4.                 Later on, she opened up the discussion to the whole class
5.                 She then redirected the discussion by asking “Does any part of the story
            remind you of something from your own life?”
6.                 She “encouraged students to describe childhood pastimes, special times ….
            We added details, facts, emotions and new vocabulary to our discussion.”
7.                 Next she “asked students to think of a place they loved or that was special
            to them
8.                 She modelled an example from her own life
9.                 “Then it was the students’ turn. I had them copy the chart in Figure (1) and
            take brief notes.”

                Figure (1)
  Think of a special place or
   A place you love
1.  List things that you see:
2.   List things that you hear:
3.   List things that you feel:
       4.  List things that you smell:
5.    List things that you taste:

10.            Later on, “students talked about their notes with a partner,” then to a
            second partner and “they added more details to their charts.”

“With their extended notes and details, they had the tools to write a descriptive paragraph or essay.”

Finally, Katherine Carter set her final reflections as follows:
a.                 ‘Reading a colourful short story or short poem before writing turns on thinking skills (Wilhelm 2008) and allows students to become interested in the topic.”
b.                 “Guiding students to visualize as they read gives them confidence; it also helps them to learn to think as they write.”
c.                  “The text has become significant to them, as their background experiences have been activated.”
d.                 “Instead of confronting an arbitrary list of topics ….students have made a connection with a story. That connection offers them something interesting to write about…”


Carter, Katherine, Teaching Descriptive Writing through Visualization and the Five Senses. English Teaching Forum, Vol. 53, No. 2, 2015
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