Using 5-senses to encourage your child to write descriptively

Many parents ask, “Ms. Claudia, I want my son to write about his birthday party but he has nothing to write about!” Some other issues among parents who are trying to encourage their child to write descriptively at home include:

  • my child doesn’t know how to start
  • my child doesn’t write enough
  • my child runs out of ideas quickly
  • my child cannot find the right words to describe

If your child simply doesn’t want to write, you can refer to my other post “Ways to encourage your toddler to write stories at home” here

What is descriptive writing?

According to, the primary purpose of descriptive writing is:

For Kai who is 5 years and 3 months, descriptive writing is not at all an independent task. He has to make sure to start with a topic he is familiar with, be able to organise his ideas, and describe using appropriate vocabulary. This is when a graphic organiser, specifically for using the 5-senses, come in handy! Teachers also refer to 5-senses as sensory details.

How to guide descriptive writing using the 5 senses?

Before beginning to write, it may be appropriate to point out to your child that we use:

  • Our eyes to see
  • Our ears to listen
  • Our nose to smell
  • Our mouth to taste
  • Our heart to feel.

This book “My Five Senses” by Aliki introduces the 5-senses in a clear and simple way.

Then, using a graphic organiser like the one I have created, you and your child can list out what they experience using their five senses. This is what Kai and I have done regarding “Chinese New Year” this year. I actually had him “brainstorm” by drawing a simple picture in each box first!

Do keep in mind that “Chinese New Year” would be a suitable topic since this week is Chinese New Year! We have done many drawings, read countless books and watched videos regarding the celebration so he would have plenty of ideas before we began.

Some other topics Kai could easily write about might be:

  • His soccer practice last week
  • His classroom
  • Biking with Daddy
  • A rain day

Since Kai is learning Chinese with me as well, I have created the same graphic organisers in simplified and traditional Chinese:

I have also created blank ones here:

What is the next step after the graphic organiser is complete?

Kai is learning Chinese at the same time, but he doesn’t know how to write many of his characters so I simply scribed for him!

On a separate day so he doesn’t get overwhelmed by all the writing he has to do, I asked Kai to write his paragraph using his sensory details in English:

We used the topic sentence: This Chinese New Year, I did many things.

And concluded with: I had so much fun!

Kai wrote:

DISCLAIMER: For an older student, I’d actually encourage them to take out all the “I see, I smell, I taste, I feel” words and directly incorporate the descriptions in the writing like this:

Sample for older students

Here are some more writing templates in English and Chinese for you to download:

As you can see, using a simple graphic organiser for the 5-senses can help a child organise and come up with ideas more easily than simply asking them to “write about Chinese New Year!” Engaging a child’s 5 sense helps to bring a simple paragraph to life.

Finally, here is a Chinese version of a paragraph that incorporates the 5 senses!

If you have any questions, feel free to reach me by email or social media!

Published by Ms Claudia L. Kimura

Apple Distinguished Educator, Class of 2015 Primary school teacher, technology coordinator Not just a regular mom, but a teacher-mom Mom of 2 boys, stepmom of 3 boys

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