Manipulatives, such as a jar of buttons, can help engage students in descriptive writing.

Third grade students have great imaginations and enjoy writing stories. Most third graders can write good sentences, and they are ready to move on to skills such as developing plots, settings and characters. Core curriculum standards dictate that third-grade students develop writing skills that create these real or imagined experiences using descriptive details.

Where Does This Button Belong?

Keep a collection of buttons in a large glass jar. Allow students to bring buttons from home to add to the collection. For a descriptive writing activity, pass the jar of buttons around and allow each student to take one. Have them write a description of the garment the button came from, as well as the person who might wear it. Remember to describe the actions, thoughts and feelings of the character.

Who is This Person?

Guide students through this exercise for descriptive writing. Prompt the writing by saying they will be describing a scene where a person is standing on a street corner. Then, have them describe the person and the setting however they want. Is it a man or woman? Is it summer or winter? Is it a busy city corner or a quiet neighborhood? Why is the person standing there? Have the students share their writing with the rest of the class.

What are You Saying?

Accurate description is important for clear communication. Have one student come to the front of the room and give a detailed description of a person, place or thing. Have the rest of the class interpret the description by drawing pictures based on what was said. Have students compare drawings and discuss how interpretations can vary based on the specificity of description or the point of view of the listener.

What are You Sensing?

Place various objects on a table in front of the class. Have the students write five descriptive sentences for each object, focusing on each of the five senses. Imagine the objects are in a different setting. What do you see? Hear? Feel? Taste? Smell? Objects could include potato chips, chocolate, a small bale of straw, a bucket of sand or mouthwash. Engage students further by assigning them the job of bringing in items to describe.