I thought up the idea for this lesson plan one evening after my IPod battery died in the middle of my walk. In case you’re having trouble seeing the image above, it reads:
On summer nights, my neighborhood is mostly quiet. Crickets buzz, air conditioners whir, and my feet pat, pat, pat against the pavement. There is a low hum of traffic in the distance, and glass dishes clink against tabletops. It smells like dinnertime. Muffled chatter floats from inside of kitchens. A scruffy stray cat on a lawn meows softly, and a kid on a porch shrieks:
“YOU kill it!”
But mostly it’s dark and quiet, just me and my shoes on the pavement: Pat, pat, pat, pat, pat.
When I was in middle school, my teacher gave us a descriptive writing exercise once a week. She would announce a one-word topic, and we would have a certain amount of time to write a paragraph with as many specific sensory details as possible. Then we would all read them aloud, and “ooh” and “ahh” over each other’s use of descriptive adjectives. That’s kinda what I have in mind for this lesson, although I have some ideas on how to scaffold it for English language leaners. I haven’t tried it with my own students just yet, but here’s what I plan to do:
Display the passage above on the projector, and/or print out a copy of the text for students to look at. I would recommend using the PDF Worksheet which I created to go along with this lesson. Read the passage aloud to the class, and have them underline any words that are used to describe specific sounds.
Make a class chart of sound words from the paragraph, and sources of each sound. For example: Sound – buzz / Source – crickets.
Brainstorm a list of things in your current neighborhood that make sounds. You might give students a few minutes to come up with their own lists of sources in groups. After they finish, you can help them think of descriptive verbs for each source.
Ask students to write their own descriptive paragraph about the sounds that they hear when they walk through their neighborhood. You could either ask them to write about their current neighborhood or about their native countries. I would give them some time to begin writing independently, and then ask them to finish and self-edit it for homework.
Allow students to share their work with classmates. You can deicide how you’d like to do this. You might have everyone read their passages aloud to the class, or just ask a few students whose passages are the most descriptive. Sharing could also be done in small groups. Another idea is to have a writing gallery walk. Everyone can tape their passages to the wall, and then students can walk around, read each other’s writing, and leave comments on post-it notes for their peers to read.
In case you missed it above, click here to view and download my PDF worksheet for this lesson: Worksheet
What do you think about the activity above? Do you have any ideas on how it could be improved? I may add a worksheet to this post if anyone is interested, so please let me know if that would be helpful to you.
Have you tried this, or a similar descriptive writing activity with your class? I’d really like to hear about it!
Please feel free to chime in and post your comments in the box at the bottom of the page.