For an essay scoring 6

Congratulations on your top-scoring essay. To add polish to your descriptive writing skills, try the following activities:

Click on the Model Essay link, and read the model essay closely. Compare it to your own essay. Identify two ways in which your essay and the model essay differ. What can you learn from these differences that will make you a better descriptive writer?

Create your own model essay. (Any time during this activity that you need an example, remember to consult the model essay.)

1. Consider other ways to open your essay to get your reader’s attention. Sensory detail is at the heart of descriptive writing, so consider beginning with a vividly descriptive sentence, including at least one detail that appeals to the senses.

2. A good descriptive essay begins by creating a dominant impression of the subject, rather than having a thesis or main idea statement. Does your opening paragraph create an impression of your subject? If not, what kind of impression does your essay create? Close your first paragraph with a hint of this impression.

3. Effective descriptive writing requires sensory details and figurative details (metaphors and similes that help you describe your subject). Read your essay closely, and highlight each detail that appeals to the senses, as well as each metaphor or simile. Next, add more details and more metaphors and similes, if you have few. If you have used mainly details of sight and hearing, include details that appeal to the other senses: smell, taste, and touch.

4. Re-read your conclusion. Make sure that it returns to your dominant impression and leaves your reader with something to ponder as well.

5. Give your essay an eye-catching title.

6. Add annotations to your descriptive essay. Label your dominant impression, along with sensory details, metaphors, and similes that develop the dominant impression. Then, share your essay with a small group of classmates. Your annotations can help guide a discussion of your own model essay.


For an essay scoring 5

Congratulations on a job well done. To become an even better descriptive writer, try the following activities:

Click on the Model Essay link, and read the model essay closely. Compare it to your own essay. Identify two ways in which your essay and the model essay differ. What can you learn from these differences that will make you a better descriptive writer?

Spice up your essay with figurative details. (Any time during this activity that you need an example, remember to consult the model essay.)

Figurative details are comparisons of something familiar with something unfamiliar; the most common are metaphors and similes. Before you begin, take a moment to review: a simile makes a comparison, using like or as, and a metaphor makes a comparison without like or as. Here are some examples:

      Simile: Love is like a warm fire on a cold winter day.
      Metaphor: Love is a warm fire on a cold winter day.
      Meaning: Love makes you feel warm inside.

1. Choose two of the following items. For each of your choices, create three vivid metaphors or similes.

    • Summer heat
    • A drink of water after hours of thirst
    • Birds on a telephone wire
    • The sound of a siren at night
    • The first taste of a favorite dessert

2. Share your metaphors and similes with a small group. Mark the ones group members think are most descriptive. And when you hear a metaphor or simile that you like, add it to your own collection.

3. Now that you’ve had some practice with metaphors and similes, go back to your essay. Read through it closely, and highlight any metaphors and similes. Then, try to add at least one vivid metaphor or simile to each paragraph.

4. Revise your essay to include your new metaphors and similes.


For an essay scoring 4

Congratulations. You’ve written a successful essay. But since there’s always room for improvement, try the following activities to strengthen your descriptive writing:

Click on the Model Essay link, and read the model essay closely. Compare it to your own essay. Identify two ways in which your essay and the model essay differ. What can you learn from these differences that will make you a better descriptive writer?

Strengthen the details. (Any time during this activity that you need an example, remember to consult the model essay.)

Good descriptive writing depends on vivid sensory details—words and phrases that appeal to the five senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch). Consider the following sentence: It was cold. Now compare it to this sentence: The wind knifed into me, an icy fire against the skin on my exposed forearms. Notice how the second sentence gives us something we can feel.

1. Re-read your own essay closely, highlighting each sensory detail. Then, label each highlighted item by sense: sight, hearing, smell, taste, or touch.

2. Notice which of the five senses you used most and which senses you used rarely or not at all. It’s not unusual to find that most of your details appeal to sight or hearing.

3. Add one or two sensory details to each paragraph of your essay. Concentrate on senses that you rarely used before—or didn’t use at all. Make each new detail as vivid as possible.

4. Using your new work with sensory details, revise your essay. Since detail is the heart of description, ask yourself how vivid each detail is. Does each detail create a strong sensory image?


For an essay scoring 3

Your score on this essay shows some success with descriptive writing. What can you do to get better at this kind of writing? Try the following activities:

Click on the Model Essay link, and read the model essay closely. Compare it to your own essay. Identify two ways in which your essay and the model essay differ. What can you learn from these differences that will make you a better descriptive writer?

Explore your senses. (Any time during this activity that you need an example, remember to consult the model essay.)

Good descriptive writing depends on vivid sensory details—words and phrases that appeal to the five senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch). Consider the following sentence: It was hot. Now compare it to this sentence: The sun burned down on me from a cloudless sky, making perspiration trickle down my back until my shirt stuck to me in a sticky mass. Notice how the second sentence gives us something we can feel.

1. To improve your descriptive writing, practice the art of detail. Choose one of the following statements, and write it at the top of a sheet of paper. In the space beneath the sentence, write for ten minutes, with one goal: to make your reader see, hear, smell, taste, and feel the details of your opening statement.

    • Playing in the surf is a wonderful activity.
    • The pep rally was exciting.
    • The fireworks display was awe-inspiring.
    • It was a wonderful meal.
Share this exercise with a small group. Mark the details that group members think are the most descriptive.

2. Next, read over your own descriptive essay. On a sheet of paper, list the sensory details you used to describe your subject. Label each detail: sight, hearing, smell, taste, or touch. Then, list as many new sensory details as you can, using as many of the senses as possible. Try to make each new detail as vivid as the best details shared in your group.

3. Revise your essay, using your new sensory details to make it stronger.


For an essay scoring 2

Your score on this essay shows a need for further practice with descriptive writing. What can you do to learn more about this kind of writing? Try the following activities:

Click on the Model Essay link, and read the model essay closely. Compare it to your own essay. Identify two ways in which your essay and the model essay differ. What can you learn from these differences that will make you a better descriptive writer?

Consider the details. (Any time during this activity that you need an example, remember to consult the model essay.)

Good descriptive writing depends on vivid sensory details—words and phrases that appeal to the five senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch). Consider the following sentence: The music was loud. Now compare it to this sentence: The music overpowered me; I could feel the bass vibrating along the length of my entire spine. Notice how the second sentence gives us something we can feel.

1. On the top line of a fresh sheet of paper, write the subject you chose for your essay.

2. Beneath the subject, list Sight. Now, write several phrases that effectively capture visual details of your subject. Try to make each detail as vivid as the details in the model essay.

3. When you have as many vivid visual details as possible, skip a line and write Hearing. Repeat step 2 above.

4. Repeat step 2 for Smell, Taste, and Touch.

5. Using the sensory details from this exercise, revise your essay.


For an essay scoring 1

Your score on this essay shows a need for further practice with descriptive writing. What can you do to learn more about this kind of writing? Try the following activities:

Click on the Model Essay link, and read the model essay closely. Compare it to your own essay. Identify two ways in which your essay and the model essay differ. What can you learn from these differences that will make you a better descriptive writer?

Consider your subject and your focus.
A descriptive writing prompt usually assigns a broad topic but allows the writer to choose a particular subject for the essay. For example, a prompt that asks you to describe a favorite vacation spot allows you to choose among several particular subjects—an amusement park, a fishing hole, a national park, or a favorite city.

1. On the top line of a fresh sheet of paper, write the broad topic assigned by the prompt. In the space beneath the topic, brainstorm a list of particular subjects you could write about.

2. Look over your list of new subjects for this prompt. Choose one that appeals to you and that you know really well.

3. Now, picture your subject. If you were telling a friend about it, what is the most important thing you’d want your friend to understand about it? Write your answer in one sentence.

4. Beneath the sentence you wrote for step 3, list the five senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. For each sense, write one vivid detail to help you describe your new subject. These details will give you a successful start on a new decriptive essay.



For an Unscorable essay

Your essay has not been scored. The most common reason for this problem is that the essay doesn't focus on the assigned topic or doesn't use the assigned approach to the topic. To improve your ability to interpret an expository prompt and to write an expository essay, try one of the following activities:

Click on the Model Essay link, and read the model essay closely. Compare it to your own essay. Identify two ways in which your essay and the model essay differ. What can you learn from these differences that will make you a better descriptive writer?

Analyze your prompt.
A descriptive writing prompt usually assigns a broad topic but allows the writer to choose a particular subject for the essay. For example, a prompt that asks you to describe a favorite vacation spot allows you to choose among several particular subjects—an amusement park, a fishing hole, a national park, or a favorite city.

1. Your prompt is at the top of this window. Print this window, and read your prompt closely. What does it ask you to describe, and how does it ask you to describe it? Read the prompt again. The first step toward writing a successful essay is taking the time to picture exactly what the prompt is asking you to do.

2. Read the prompt a final time, and highlight the broad topic it assigns for this essay.

3. Next, make a list of particular subjects that would fit what you have highlighted. Concentrate on subjects that appeal to you and that you know really well. After you have listed several subjects, choose the one you like best.

4. Now, picture your subject. If you were telling a friend about it, what is the most important thing you’d want your friend to understand about it? Write your answer in one sentence. It will be the beginning of a new and more successful descriptive essay.

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