Pictures In My Mind: Using Adjectives to Create Vivid Imagery, Day 1 of 2

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SWBAT identify words and phrases in a text that appeal to their senses.

Big Idea

Today we are going to use our senses and use adjectives to describe different foods.

Teacher Background Knowledge and Preparation

Words are important.  Students really need to know the different parts of speech so they can learn what role different words play in sentences.  When authors use words correctly, especially adjectives and rich, specific nouns, the reader starts to develop vivid pictures in their mind.  As teachers, we teach the reading skill of visualization.  Readers would have a hard time creating that "mental movie" in their minds and couldn't visualize what was happening in the story without these key parts of speech. If you look at the key shifts in the Common Core standards for English Language Arts (ELA) you'll see that the first shift states that students need regular practice with complex texts and their academic language.  If I don't work on broadening my students' vocabulary, they are never going to be able to access the academic language in the complex text we encounter.  Thus, comprehension would suffer drastically.

I remember back to my elementary school days.  We had an English book that would teach us the different parts of speech.  Then we would write sentences and underline our verbs or nouns or whatever we happened to be studying that week.  What I think was missing from my education was the application of these skills to my everyday reading and writing.  This is what I want to achieve with my students.  How do adjectives and rich nouns enhance my visualization skills as a reader?  What happens to my writing when I use vivid adjectives and descriptive nouns?

Today's work centers on using sensory adjectives/nouns to describe our different foods. As we read what we've written in our chart, students begin to think how the adjectives/nouns create a better mental image of the noun they're discussing.  This addresses standard RL1.4.  Students will need to use adjectives to describe their nouns by talking about what they're sensing and then writing about what senses were engaged. This addresses standards L1.1f, L1.4, and L1.4a. 

I am going to have students describe their foods by using analogies/similes.  I don't want students to say, "This smells gross." I want them to be more specific. How does it smell?  What does it smell like? I am not going to specifically teach analogies today.  I am going to coax students to say things such as, "This smells like garbage. This tastes like seaweed." Yes, I know this would be describing a noun, but let's think about the skill of visualization.  Think about your favorite author.  Does that author describe a scene so vividly that it feels as if you're actually in the place that they're describing?  I bet that author incorporated metaphors and similes to give you that mental image.  This is what I'm trying to achieve in this lesson.  We'll be using analogies to describe and create mental images today. This also sets the foundation for success for when I actually do teach analogies/similes to my class in a more explicit lesson.

For today's lesson you will either want to download the Smartboard Sensory Adjectives.notebook or Activboard Sensory Adjectives.flipchart lesson.  You will also want to make enough copies of the sensory adjective chart Sensory Chart for Adjectives.pdf for each student to record their answers on.

Reading of the Story and Guided Practice

45 minutes

I started the lesson by stating the objective.  I said, "Today we are going to review what adjectives are.  We are also going to use our senses and use descriptive language to describe some objects.  Finally, we will take some ordinary adjectives and learn how to find better adjectives to describe objects by using a thesaurus."

I started reading the story "Hairy, Scary, Ordinary" by Brian P. Cleary.  If you don't have this particular book, there are many other books you can read that display good use of adjectives.  This website shares some good examples.  I had already had a basic lesson with my students on adjectives so we discussed the book and we reviewed how adjectives can be number words, size words, color words, and sensory words.  After discussing the book I said, " Today we are going to focus on using sensory words to describe objects.  We will use our senses to describe different foods today."

I made each student wash off their hands with hand sanitizer. I sent them back to their tables.  Each student had a paper plate at their spot. I also gave them their recording sheet so they could write different adjectives for the foods.  I had several different foods that I wanted my students to try. I had to be careful because I had students with peanut allergies so I made sure we had peanut- free products. You can use whatever foods you want with your class.  Here is what I brought for my students: 

  • baby carrots
  • turnips
  • kiwi
  • mangoes
  • pretzel rods
  • sesame seeds
  • garlic
  • lemons

I let the students explore the foods one at a time. We discussed the adjective for sight, sound (if they gently rolled the food on the table, or what sound it would make if eaten - i.e. carrots are crunchy)For the sense of smell, I didn't want students to say things like, "It smells gross." I probed for more information.  "What does it smell like? (It smells like a flower, it smells like dirt etc.)" This is where I was trying to elicit those descriptive nouns from my students.

Some of their reactions were quite funny when we recorded the taste of each object.  The students recorded their adjectives on their charts. You can see what fun we had during this portion of the lesson.  You can see what we did in the video here Sensory Adjectives.mp4.  To keep the lesson on track, I got my timer out.  I gave each student 20 seconds to explore the items (except for taste) and then they would pass the object to the next person.  Then I took the object, and I would cut the object up (if it needed to be) while the students recorded their adjectives.  I would then put a piece of the food on the students plate and they tasted while I had the chance to video the students.  You can see a little bit of how we did this in our video here in the resource section.


3 minutes

Our guided practice part of the lesson took quite a long time and my students did a great deal of writing completing their chart so I wanted a short closure.  I partnered my students up and told them whether they were Person 1 or Person 2.  I said, "You will each have a turn to tell your partner why it is important to learn about adjectives and why it was important to use our senses to describe these objects." I gave each student 1 minute to talk to their partner.