Sensory Details

Goal: To have students use juicy, sensory descriptors in their writing.

Sensory Details
  • Intro

Sensory Details

Contributed by Mary Kinney


To have students use juicy, sensory descriptors in their writing.


  • Intro: TA presents a lemon to the class. Going around the room, student volunteers share descriptors for the lemon. Ask, what does a lemon smell like (without using the word lemon!)? When asking what it sounds like, TA can toss and catch the lemon or softly tap the lemon. Students can also mention dishes that they have had lemon in at home. TA encourages students to be creative and specific with their descriptors, inviting similes and personification (if discussing this in class).
  • TA presents each table with a “mystery bag.” One of the five senses is listed on the outside, and a mystery item is on the inside. On “go”, students will have 4 minutes to list as many descriptors of their mystery item only using the sense written on the outside.
  • When time is up, each table group counts their total. Each table shares their item and their list with the class
  • Sample mystery items: cinnamon stick, coffee bean, leaf, shoelace, penny, foil. For taste, use something most people have probably tasted before (lemon, cinnamon, etc.)
  • Reflection
    • Students reflect on how challenging/easy it was to focus on one sense, share different strategies they used to get as many descriptors as possible
  • Possible adjustments depending on the group of students: 
    • Whichever group gets the most descriptors about their item wins.
    • Have rest of the class guess what each item was, based on each group’s descriptions.

Transition into Activity

Have lemon in a brown paper bag. Ask students to guess what is in the bag. TA uses a few descriptors before revealing the lemon.

Transition out of Activity

TA collects sensory materials, class gives snaps to the groups that came up with such delicious details. Take a deep breath in and out collectively before moving on to the next activity.

Classroom Arrangement

Table groups

Supports/Adaptive Materials/Tools

  • Students who are less verbal may be invited to draw some examples.
  • Can dim lights to support sensory focusing.
  • Group brainstorming, working with lemon example.
  • Have a sensory word bank that students can pull from – takes pressure off of generating their own.

Role of the Teachers and Paraprofessionals

  • Teachers can join table groups of students that may find this more challenging.
  • Can support by adding descriptors to class list.

Remote Adaptation

TA can still use the lemon exercise; students can work in break rooms
on additional items after given clear instructions on what sense to use for their descriptors.

Art forms


10-15 mins