Choose Three Things To Describe
The way I encourage my students to write a five-paragraph descriptive essay is to choose three things to describe. For example, say that you are asked to write an essay describing the perfect bedroom. Pick three items to describe. You might choose to describe the furniture, wall hangings, and flooring. Then describe those three items using the five senses.
You can also choose three senses and organize your essay that way. You might write one using the sense of touch, one using the sense of sound, and one using the sense of sight. Personally, I would recommend this approach for kids who struggle with writing. It is a simpler approach, but harder to make appealing to your readers because it is much more formulaic.
Don’t Force All Five Senses
Keep in mind that you only use the senses that make sense to use. Do not force all five into the essay. For example, you would probably not use the sense of taste when describing your perfect bedroom.
Use Figurative Language
I require my students to use at least two examples of figurative language in their essays. I usually require them to use similes, metaphors, and/or personification. Using figurative language in a descriptive essay promotes creativity and is enjoyable for your readers.
Introductions and Conclusions
Your introduction simply presents what your essay is about. As I said earlier, it may help to write your introduction after you write your body. Look at the three things you described and give your reader some hints about what those three things are in your introduction. When you conclude your essay, briefly review what you described to your readers.
A five-paragraph descriptive essay can be challenging, but once you get the hang of "showing, not telling" and using figurative language, descriptive essays become much more enjoyable to write.
When I started my first job as a professional newspaper reporter (This job also served as an internship during my junior year in college — I just didn’t leave for about 6 years.), I quickly realized that all my experience, and all my years of journalism education had not been enough to help me write stories about drug busts, fatal car accidents and tornadoes. All the theoretical work I’d done, and all of the nifty little scholastic and collegiate stories I had done, did not prepare me for real world writing.
At that point, I had to find a solution quickly. After all, I had a deadline to meet, and it was only a few hours away.
One of my colleagues, who also served as a mentor, had the solution. She introduced me to the newspaper’s “morgue.” This was a room filled with filing cabinets in which we kept old — dead — stories arranged by reporter. Whenever I wasn’t’ sure how to write a story, all I had to do was check the morgue for similar stories. If I needed to write a story about a local drug bust, for example, I’d find another story on a similar incident, study its structure, and mentally create a formula in which to plugin the information I’d gathered.
Once I’d gained more experience, and had internalized the formula for that particular type of story, I felt free to branch out as the situation — and my training — warranted.
I do the same thing when I want to write a type of letter, brochure, or report that I’ve never written before.
This is what writing looks like in the real world.
Research by “Write Like This” author Kelly Gallagher indicates that if we want students to grow as writers, we need to provide them with good writing to read, study, and emulate. My personal experience backs this up, as does the old adage “all writing is rewriting,” oft quoted by everyone from LA screenwriters to New York Times bestselling authors.
Of course, if you’re a new teacher like me, there is one problem with providing mentor texts to my students: I have a dearth of middle school level writing sitting around in my file cabinets.
Fortunately, the Internet is full of sources, so I scoured the bowels of Google to find examples. I know how busy you are, so I’m sharing.
Expository writing examples for middle school
Below are several sources of expository writing samples for middle school students.
Finally, here is an article in the New York Times that will help you teach your students real-world expository writing skills.
Descriptive writing examples for middle school
Narrative writing examples for middle school
Argumentative/persuasive writing examples for middle school
Reflective writing examples for middle school
If you know of any other online writing example sources, please feel free to share them in the comments below.
I am a secondary English Language Arts teacher, a University of Oklahoma graduate student, and a NBPTS candidate. I am constantly seeking ways to amplify my students’ voices and choices.
Filed Under: PedagogyTagged With: writing examples, writing samples