We exist in a primarily visual world. From movies and TV shows to video games and social media, there’s no denying that visual media is more popular than ever before. It is more important now for writers to use vivid and descriptive language to help readers visualize their words.
From the audience’s perspective, descriptive writing is important for being able to follow the action of a story—knowing where important landmarks are, where everyone is standing during a significant event and exactly what the protagonist is looking at can make the difference between a page-turning story and a somewhat confusing one. Without descriptive writing, you’re missing out on an opportunity for deeper audience engagement.
It is important to teach your students how to express themselves through vivid writing from a young age. This will strengthen their writing abilities early on and set them up for future success. Placing an emphasis on detailed writing can encourage your students to become more invested in their writing and mindful of their surroundings as they go about their lives.
To this end, we’ve put together a collection of writing prompts that emphasize and strengthen your students’ descriptive writing abilities. We’ve placed these prompts into categories, and each prompt is followed by a series of supplementary questions and prompts that help draw out more details from your students. We hope that these prompts will help put your students on the path to become better writers!
Going on Vacation
Think about the last time you went on vacation. Where did you go? What was it like there? Describe in detail the place where you stayed. What was your favorite thing to do while you were on vacation? Did you meet anyone new? What’s something you didn’t get a chance to do but would like to do the next time you go there?
Imagine your dream vacation. Where would you go? During which season would you visit? What is the weather and environment like? What would you do there? Describe in detail the place where you would stay. Where would you go while on vacation here? What’s the most important thing you would want to do more than anything else?
Go to a random location on Google Earth. Look around and describe what you see. Is it a populated area or an isolated one? Are there buildings? If there are buildings, describe them. Is there plant life? Are there animals present? If there are plants or animals, describe them. What do you think it would be like to visit this area? What do you think the people would be like?
Have your class watch a virtual tourism video on YouTube (this is a genre where a solo, typically silent, camera person films POV-style walking tours around locations like Japan, France, Canada or various US states). After watching, have your students write a descriptive recounting of what they saw, either trying to remember the most details along the way or writing deeply about one specific section of the video.
Look at photos of planets in the solar system. Ask your students to imagine what the surfaces of those planets look like and write about them in detail. What color would the skies be? What color is the ground on these planets? What’s the weather like? Do you think the planets might have plants or animals on them? What would the plants and animals look like and what would they do?
People You Know
Describe the funniest person you know. Are they someone you know from real life or from television or a movie? What makes them funny? What is the funniest thing this person has ever done? Have you ever done something similar or tried to be like this person? Is their humor similar to yours?
Think about your pet. What does your pet look like? What is their mood like? What is your pet’s personality like? Does your pet have a favorite food or treat? Is there anything they like to eat that they’re not supposed to? Does your pet know any cool tricks? How long have you had your pet? Were you always friends or did it take time? What’s one special thing about your pet that you want everyone to know about? What’s the most funny story you have about your pet?
Imagine you have a fantastic creature for a pet—a unicorn, a dragon or maybe even a baby shark! In as much detail as possible, describe your fantastical pet. How does it act? What kind of personality does it have? Can your fantastical pet talk or does it communicate in another way? What does it eat? Is it easy to feed or does it take a lot of work? Does your pet do anything it isn’t supposed to do?
Describe someone from a story you’ve read in detail. What does this person look like? How do they act? What kind of personality do they have? Were they the hero of the story or the villain? What made them stand out? Explain one scene in detail, describing exactly what happened. What important thing did they do in the story? Could the story happen without them? Do you feel like you have anything in common with this person?
Are you Enjoying this Content?
It’s Only Natural
Remember the most beautiful scene in nature you’ve ever seen. Where were you? What time of day was it? Were you outside or looking out a window? What made the scene so beautiful? Is it something you’ll see again or was this something unique that you don’t think will happen again?
Imagine the ocean. Describe the waves. Is it a calm day or is it choppy and stormy? What color is the sky and how does that affect the color of the water? What is the weather like? How does the air feel? What does it smell like? How does it feel to walk on the sand? What do you find walking along the shore? Are there any birds or seals or other animals?
Remember a storm you watched. It could be a rainstorm, a thunderstorm, a snowstorm, a hailstorm, a tornado, a hurricane or a blizzard. You could have seen it on TV, on the internet or in real life. Describe the feeling of the changing weather before the storm began, the intensity of the middle of the storm and the way the storm ended. Do you like watching storms? What do you like or dislike about them?
Pretend you’re in charge of planning a shopping mall. How many floors would the mall be and how big would it be? What stores and restaurants would you have in the mall? Would you have a movie theater, a play center or other entertainment? Is there another unique attraction you’d add to your mall that no other malls would have? What would you do to make your mall perfect?
Imagine the perfect playground. What playground equipment and toys would it have? Is there anything it wouldn’t have? Would the perfect playground be attached to your school or would it be somewhere else? If somewhere else, where would it be? Is the weather special on this playground?
If you were in charge of planning an amusement park, what would the amusement park be like? What rides and attractions would you have? What would the theme be? Is there anything you’d leave out on purpose? Why would you not include those things? What kind of mascots would you have at your amusement park? What kinds of snacks, drinks and foods would be sold there? What souvenirs would be sold at the gift shop?
Describe your room. What color are the walls? Is the floor carpet or wood? Did you help with decorating or was it decorated for you? Do you have entertainment in your room, like books, toys or a TV? What’s your favorite thing in your room? If you could change one thing about your room, what would you change? If you could keep one thing about your room the same forever, what would it be?
Think about your kitchen. What’s something your family has in your kitchen that’s unique to your family? Is your kitchen decorated? Does it have any cool appliances, like a waffle maker? What’s your favorite dish to make in the kitchen? Do you like cooking? What’s your favorite thing in the kitchen?
Imagine your living room. What color are the walls? Is the floor wood or carpet? What kind of decorations are there? What kind of furniture is in the living room? Is there a fireplace? Does your family spend a lot of time in the living room? What do you like to do in the living room? When do you usually spend time there? What’s in your living room now that you want to have in your own living room when you’re a grown-up?
Describe your yard. If you don’t have a yard, describe your favorite outdoor space, like a public park or a friend’s or family member’s yard. What kind of yard do you have? Is there lawn furniture, a swing set, a picnic table, a hammock, a pool, a trampoline or anything else in the yard? Do you and your friends or siblings play in the yard? What’s your favorite thing to do in the yard?
Who Am I?
Imagine your favorite place, the place where you feel the most safe and comfortable. Is it inside or outside? What does this place look like? If it’s inside, describe the furniture and how it’s decorated. If it’s outside, describe the weather and any plant life and what the weather is usually like there. What does it smell like? What do you take to your favorite place? What do you do in your favorite place? Do you go there with other people or by yourself?
Think about your favorite food, the food you’d eat every day if you could or a food that’s only served on special occasions. Describe the food in detail. Is it a sweet food, a savory food or a food with a different flavor? What is the texture of your favorite food? Do you recommend this food to others or do you want to save it all for yourself?
Everyone has a superpower, something they’re especially talented at that comes in handy during different situations. What is your superpower? How did you discover your superpower? Were you excited or did it seem like no big deal? What is one time when you had the opportunity to use your superpower for good and impressed everyone? Do you know anyone else with the same superpower?
Help Your Students Become Published Authors!
One of the best ways for your students to practice their new descriptive writing skills is to participate in a classbook publishing project! You can use one of our FREE classbook publishing kits to combine your students’ writing and illustrations into a professionally bound, hardcover book.
The process is easy and very straightforward. All you need to do is sign up online, and we’ll ship your publishing kit straight to you. A classbook anthology of your students’ writing and illustrations will be a meaningful keepsake and time capsule for your classroom, and parents can order copies, too!
You can also check out our blog and online Teacher’s Lounge for more writing activities, lesson plans and teaching strategies. We hope that the prompts listed in this post will help you guide your students on the path to becoming talented descriptive writers!