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Part of ICAN teachers' training is to be able to guide students to give detailed description of anything they see and write. The primary purpose of descriptive writing or speaking is to describe a person, place or thing in such a way that a picture is formed in the reader's/listener's mind. Capturing an event through descriptive writing/speaking involves paying close attention to the details by using all of your five senses. Teaching students to write and speak more descriptively will improve their writing by making it more interesting and engaging to read.

To get started, teachers use a picture of something related to the work they are covering within their literacy lessons. The complexity of the picture will be defined by the ability of the group and their ages.  Higher ability will get a more complex picture so they can practice more complex descriptive sentences. The pictures can and should give the children to use the language of choice within your literacy lessons, (i.e. in year 1 a simple picture (cartoon) with blocks of colors which are light or dark). Then further up the school it could be a picture of someone crying so they could use similes or metaphores of this tear running down his/her face.


Teachers read out a text to the children of a picture and the student's job is to draw it. Draw what they can picture in their heads from the teacher's description. This description will always follow the same language the teachers want the children to speak/write in. It is tailored for their age range and ability (always aiming for the top ability within your class to push them on - the rest will follow).  Once they have drawn their picture (this could be done on whiteboards on the carpet at the front for lower years or with pencil and scrap paper for older children) then the teacher would show them their picture on the whiteboard. A discussion about what was good about the description would then follow - this allows them to see what I expect from their descriptions.

Why teach students to be descriptive?

  • It will help your students' writing be more interesting and full of details

  • It encourages students to use new vocabulary words

  • It can help students clarify their understanding of new subject matter material

Characteristics of descriptive writing

  • Good descriptive writing includes many vivid sensory details that paint a picture and appeals to all of the reader's senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste when appropriate. 

  • Good descriptive writing often makes use of figurative language such as analogies, similes and metaphors to help paint the picture in the reader's mind.

  • Good descriptive writing uses precise language.

  • Good descriptive writing is organized.

"Writing descriptively is like painting. You illustrate and write with every stroke."

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