Hallway of an elementary school where kids' writing hangsKids’ writing takes on depth and power when they learn to use words that evoke the real world. I loved doing a workshop on sensory-rich writing with kids in a fourth grade class this year.

We used a 1915 photo of an outdoor picnic, one that I had used in researching Mountain Chef, as our point of reference. I projected the photo on the screen and we talked about what we saw in the picture. Then we moved beyond that to imagine ourselves in the photo. We brainstormed a list of things we might have seen, heard, felt, tasted, and smelled, if we had been there in the photo.

Then each child went back to her desk and wrote a journal entry, using sensory-rich language, to describe her imagined experience. I was so impressed by their writing! Here are a few excerpts:

I smelled food mixed with pine and rain.

The day was tiring it was hot and musky but the worst of all was it smelled like something had just died. It was disgusting, that smell.

I hear the call of birds the crackling of the fire, men chewing and talking.

Close up of child's journal entry, printed with a script font.They published their writing, complete with old-timey font for their writing, by hanging it in an installation outside their classroom. It has attracted much interest in the halls of their school.

Writing vividly with sensory-rich words is a Common Core requirement, but it’s also simply great writing.

If you’re looking photos that can help you bring the outside in and provide opportunities for sensory-rich writing, the National Park Service has an amazing collection of photos online.¬†

Giveaway (until May 21) of two Charlesbridge books that use lots of sensory-rich description–John Muir Wrestles a Waterfall and¬†Mountain Chef. Enter at Page through the Parks.