It’s no secret that autumn is our absolute favorite season. With the explosive colors abounding on the trees, the crisp and clean air whipping around, and the chilling temperatures, it just makes us want to snuggle in our coziest hoodie while watching a crackling fire. This makes it the perfect time to explore descriptive writing in the fall.
This week, I taught one of my middle school classes how to write a descriptive essay about fall. A descriptive essay is a written account describing something or an experience. At first, it may feel like something you don’t have to put much time into teaching. Just throw in some adjectives and you’re good to go! Yet, there’s more to it than that.
Let’s dive into how I taught descriptive writing during the fall this past week.
As part of the pre-writing activities, we first spent time learning various figurative language. We explored examples of each of the following: similes, metaphors, idioms, allusion, alliteration, personification, and onomatopoeia. Students identified each of the figurative language terms within writing and then they did the work of explaining the meaning behind each of the examples.
Next, they wrote their own similes, metaphors, idioms, etc. When I felt they had this concept down well after a couple classes of practice, we went on a walk during the next English class!
Yes, an actual walk! Students grabbed their journals and pencils and we headed outside to go on an autumn walk. We went from tree to tree and from either side of the parking lot, pausing to observe and enjoy the beautiful autumn weather.
Students penned what they saw, what they felt, and what they smelled and heard. I asked them to focus on the five senses as they followed me around outside of our school building. Students had to write down at least ten things they observed in natural.
To continue the learning concerning descriptive writing in the fall, I then took them back inside and explained how the words that describe autumn with their five senses are called sensory words.
These sensory words would be key to their descriptive essay. Then, we went through some key components of a descriptive essay as outlined in our grammar curriculum. I explained each component in detail.
Key Parts of Descriptive Writing
- Showing instead of telling
- Sensory Words
- Various Figurative Language
- Adjectives and Adverbs
- Emphasis on Onomatopoeia
The last part of the prewriting process was to read various other descriptive essays to get an idea on how a descriptive essay was structured. I chose to go simpler with my students and wanted their essays to be three paragraphs, so we read two to three paragraph essays on fall, on desserts, and on fear. (Perfect for Halloween!) I hoped to get them inspired with these published descriptive essays.
Students spent two class periods writing their rough drafts. I tend to leave them completely alone while they complete this.
I want only their thoughts and ideas in raw form to come through while working on their descriptive writing.
Peer editing is important in the writing process. I believe it helps teach students to pay careful attention to various aspects of their partner’s paper which they can then take those skills back to their essay.
If a student is editing a paper and finding it lacks figurative language, they can make that suggestion to their partner, and then they know to check their own paper to ensure it has adequate figurative language.
Students used a checklist to peer edit which utilized the descriptive essay checklist above, as well as added parts for grammar, punctuation, and mechanics.
Revising and Editing Conference
When deep in a writing project, I always make time to sit down and revise and edit one on one with students. Sometimes this takes more than one class period, or sometimes I complete this step with a few students a day as we have other English related items to squeeze in.
Teacher editing is to ensure that if a student misses something during the peer editing process, we can find and improve upon the writing during this final critique.
We normally go through the checklist again and fix any grammar and mechanics issues. Also, I give them any tips I have to make their essays even more descriptive.
One of my students described fall by writing the trees looked like Fruity Pebbles. That really stuck and I loved it so much, I told the rest of the class about this wonderful metaphor. Using time to share wonderful sentences can inspire students to think outside of the box.
Last, the students are responsible for modifying any suggestions made by their peer and myself. They are responsible for the absolute final part of publishing their paper and ensuring it is as good as it can be.
My students are in the publishing part of the writing process right now, and they’re in for a treat. Next week, once their descriptive essay is complete, they’ll illustrate their writing using watercolor paints.
We are also going to discuss how illustrations are extremely important in picture books and how an illustration can be the cherry on top of a descriptive essay.
We are going to explore picture books with beautiful illustrations that really add beauty to the stories. Students will paint what they were describing in their essays. I have a feeling the pictures will turn out wonderfully with all the autumn colors displayed in watercolor.
Descriptive writing in the fall, with the right formula, can be a fun and simple writing project. By incorporating teaching figurative language and the writing process, you can hit many standards in one fell swoop. Students enjoy taking a detour from their normal English lessons, like grammar and reading novels, to utilize their creativity all thr while taking advantage of the beauty of this current season of fall.