some great ideas for 3rd grade writing studentsWe all know how wild our 3rd grade students’ imaginations can be. They come up with ideas that are out of this world—things we wouldn’t dream up in a million years—on a daily basis. Robots who do children’s chores? Mind-reading dogs? A giant cupcake making machine that can fold up to fit in your pocket? There’s no telling what they’ll come up with next.

Of course, thinking creatively is one thing—writing creatively is a different story altogether. That’s where you come in. These four descriptive writing prompts and projects for 3rd grade students will help you show your kids how to put all their wonderful ideas into words, one adjective at a time!


Prompt #1: “Write a scene, then draw someone else’s.”

draw a scene for your classbookThis prompt is an excellent way to show how important detail is when writing a descriptive paragraph. Ask your students to write a brief description of a simple scene, including as many details as possible. Once they’re finished, have them swap papers with a fellow classmate and ask them to draw an illustration based on the description they’ve received, matching their drawing to the writing as closely as possible. When they’re done, have them switch back so that the original author has both their own description and their classmate’s illustration. Ask them to compare the two to see how their reader’s interpretation is different from the scene they imagined!


Brainstorm a theme together as a class, such as “winter” or “backyards.” Then, ask your students to write and draw a scene based on that theme. Have them switch their descriptions only (not their drawings) with another student, and draw a scene based on their classmate’s description. Then, ask them to compare their drawing with their classmate’s and write another paragraph describing how they are different—they can even draw circles on the pictures just like those “spot the difference” puzzles! Finally, collect the illustrations and both paragraphs side by side and publish them in a fun compare-and-contrast classbook


Prompt #2: “Bring in an item for show and tell—but let someone else do the telling.”

show and tell is funThis descriptive writing prompt is sure to get a giggle or two from your 3rd graders. Ask your students to bring in an unusual object for show and tell. Instead of the usual showing and telling, however, ask them to switch items with another student without explaining what it is or does. Provide them with a clear and simple writing strategy, such as a framed paragraph or two, and ask them to fill in the blanks with descriptors such as the size, shape, color or texture of the object. Invite them to present the object along with their description, and then ask them to guess what it’s for or what it does. Finally, allow the owner of the object to join in and explain what it really is, and why they chose it for show and tell. The stranger and more unique the object, the better!


Ask your students to describe both objects, their own and their partner’s. For their own object, instead of describing it physically, ask them to explain how it is used, where it came from and why they chose it. Ask them to share their descriptions as described in prompt #2 above. Take photos of each pair of students with their objects, making sure to take separate photos for each show and tell item. Finally, pair each photo with both students’ descriptions of the object in the picture and publish it all in a beautiful scrapbook-style classbook.  


Prompt #3: “Realistically describe a fictional vacation destination.”

take an imaginary vacationSummer vacation is standard writing fare in elementary school—so instead, try asking your students to travel out of this world to a fictional vacation destination of their choosing. Ask them to imagine what it would be like to spend summer nights “under the sea” with a mermaid, or while away winter break holed up in Hogwarts. Then, ask them to describe that place as if speaking to someone who has never heard of it before, much less gone for a visit. The more concrete details they include, the clearer a picture it will paint for their imaginary reader!


Instead of choosing from premade vacation spots, take things up a notch by asking your students instead to create a fictional destination of their own. Create a list for your students to fill in with details such as directions for getting to their destination and what sort of restaurants or “don’t miss” attractions one might find there. Have them peer edit each other’s work to ensure descriptions are clear and detailed enough to give readers a good idea of what this hot new destination is really like! Afterward, ask them to draw maps and illustrations of their destinations. Finally, publish their drawings and destination details all together in one big Imaginary Lands Travel Guidebook. 


Prompt #4: “Describe an illustration using jumbled adjectives.”

jumble your adjectives when writingThis writing prompt involves a little reading first. Enjoy an illustrated book together as a class, such as Charlotte’s Web by EB White or The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. Ask your students to choose one illustration from the book and create a list of adjectives that go with that illustration, writing each word as clearly as possible on a separate small slip of paper. Then, have them jumble up the adjectives and rearrange them in a random order. Finally, ask them to write a paragraph or two describing the illustration they chose, using the adjectives they wrote in the new order they’ve arranged them in. It’s a fun and simple exercise in both descriptive writing and quick critical thinking—one that can lead to some very interesting responses!


After finishing the writing exercise, ask your students to create an “adjective collage” combining their words with drawings or doodles that represent each word, such as red swirls for the word “red” or a big, puffy cloud for “fluffy.” Pair their collages with their descriptions and publish them in a unique classbook full of artwork inspired by your class reading! 


Communicating Through Descriptive Writing

Descriptive writing isn’t only about building up a strong vocabulary or exploring figurative language—it’s about communicating effectively, a skill whose value extends far beyond the classroom walls. With descriptive writing prompts that push your 3rd grade writers to consider both how to describe something and to whom they are describing it, you can help them improve and refine their writing and communication skills while allowing their minds to do what kids love best—play.

You can expand on this lesson even further by publishing your students’ work, giving them the opportunity to both celebrate their progress as writers and enjoy one another’s writing by reading it in a beautiful hardbound classbook. And, if you host a publishing party and ask your students to read their work aloud, you open up yet another opportunity to learn an important communication skill—namely, public speaking!

For more free resources to help your students write and communicate better (and more creatively!), be sure to check out our online teacher’s lounge and sign up today for your free publishing kit!

Image sources: Lead image via Unsplash user Cris Dinoto; Images 1, 2, 3, 4 via