Sample Descriptive Essays Of A Place

“Descriptive writing is an art form. It’s painting a word picture so that the reader ‘sees’ exactly what you are describing.”

~Brenda Covert

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What’s the big deal about writing descriptively? For one thing, it’s much more than page-filling fluff. Descriptive writing imprints images into the reader’s mind, making you feel as though you’re “right there.” Its all about engaging the five senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch to transport the reader and stir emotion. By choosing vivid details and colorful words, good writers bring objects, people, places, and events to life. Instead of merely telling you what they see, they use their words to show you.

Writers use this powerful method to make their pieces memorable—even brilliant—rather than dry and boring. In many ways, description is the most important kind of writing you can teach your children. Why? Because it supports other reasons for writing such as storytelling, informative reports, or persuasion.

Even if your child never aspires to write stories or poetry, description is a wonderful skill to develop. Without it, all other writing falls flat.

Describing a Place

Vivid writing is especially important when describing a place — whether to describe a vista for a travel guide or flesh out a scene in a novel.

Master storyteller Charles Dickens was also a master of using description to create a mood.

It was a town of machinery and tall chimneys, out of which interminable serpents of smoke trailed themselves for ever and ever, and never got uncoiled. It had a black canal in it, and a river that ran purple with ill-smelling dye, arid vast piles of building full of windows where there was a rattling and a trembling all day long, and where the piston of the steam-engine worked monotonously up and down, like the head of an elephant in a state of melancholy madness. ~Charles Dickens, Hard Times

But your child doesn’t have to be a Dickens to add color, depth, and interest to his writing. Here, a ninth grader draws on all five senses to describe a place and create a mood.

Moist and salty, a chilly breeze blows in across the swells, bringing with it the pungent smells of seaweed and fish and making me pull my jacket a little closer. Sea spray transforms into fiery prisms as the waves splash against the shore, catch the last golden rays of sun, and toss them up like liquid crystals.

With a few tips and tools, your child can effectively describe a  place too.

Suppose he’s planning to write about a desert. He’ll need to describe basic desert features, of course: sand, rock, hills, and dunes. But deserts aren’t all alike, so his word choices will need to reflect the kind of desert he wants to write about. For example, if he chooses a desert in the southwestern United States, he’ll probably describe plants such as sagebrush, Joshua trees, yuccas, or saguaro cacti.

But if he’s writing about an oasis in the Sahara Desert, where vegetation is much different, he would instead describe date palms, oleanders, acacia trees, succulents, and desert grasses. His description of either desert scene will spring to life as he tells about these places using rich and appropriate details.

Finding Vocabulary for Describing a Place

How do you help your child study his subject and choose strong words that make his writing sparkle? Whether he decides to write about a desert, city, rain forest, or pond, these ideas will help him find words that will form the foundation of his descriptive piece, narrative story, or report.

Using a Search Engine

Search engines such as Google make a great resource for inspiration. In addition to collecting general terms about the location’s flora and fauna (the desert, for example), he’ll also find concrete, specific nouns and adjectives that add color to his writing. Suggest that he begin his search by looking up terms like these:

  • desert landscape
  • desert features
  • desert climate
  • desert plants
  • desert animals
  • desert description

What if your child wants to describe a city instead of a desert? City words are trickier to find, and he may have to hunt more. Try some of these search terms:

  • describe city sights
  • describe Chicago, describe Pittsburgh, etc.
  • “describe downtown” (use quotes)

Using Other Sources

While search engines can lead you to a wealth of information, don’t discount the value of print media such as magazines and books. Also consider digital media such as TV documentaries or DVDs about the subject.

When describing a place, visit in person, if possible. But if not, can you explore a spot with similar features? Many children are visual and tactile learners. If your child wants to describe what a sidewalk looks like, how about taking him outside to explore the sidewalk on your street? It will help him describe the texture, color, and appearance of a city sidewalk, even if you live in a suburb.

Expanding Vocabulary

As your child searches the Internet, ask him to keep an eye out for adjectives that describe desert or city features (or whatever place he wants to write about). Encourage him to come up with words on his own, but also to watch for words he meets in articles or photo captions.

If he doesn’t understand some of the words, pull out the dictionary and make it a teaching moment! And show him how to use a thesaurus (we love The Synonym Finder[aff]) to find other words that say the same thing. Both of these exercises will help his vocabulary to grow.

Some Desert Adjectives

Desert:harsh, dry, arid, sparse, severe, hot
Rock:sharp, rough, jagged, angular
Grasses:windblown, bent, dry, pale green, brown
Sand:coarse, fine, glittering, shifting, rippling, sifting, white, golden
Sky:pale, intense, cloudless, azure, purple, crimson
Cactus:tall, short, squatty, spiny, prickly, thorny
Date palm:tall, bent, leather (leaves), frayed (leaves)

Some City Adjectives

City:active, bustling, noisy, busy, clean, dirty, windy
Traffic:loud, congested, snarled
Buildings:old, shabby, rundown, crumbling,  modern, futuristic, sleek, towering, squat
Buildings (walls):brick, stone, marble, glass, steel, graffiti-covered
Monuments, statues:stone, copper, carved, ancient, moss-covered, faded, green, bronze
Sidewalk:concrete, cement, slick, cracked, tidy, littered, swept
Paint:fresh, weathered, peeling
Signs:neon, weathered, worn, bright, welcoming, flashing
Buses, cars, taxis:belching, crawling, speeding, honking, waiting, screeching
People:hurried, bundled, smiling, frowning, eager, rushed

Use these suggestions to encourage your child come up with ideas for describing a place of his own. You’ll both discover that hunting for words can become a favorite pre-writing game! And as your child dabbles more and more in descriptive writing, I’m confident his words will soon begin to “show” more and “tell” less.

. . . . .

Do you struggle with teaching and grading writing? Does your child’s writing need a boost? Consider adding WriteShop to your curriculum choices for this school year!

The first seven lessons of WriteShop I specifically teach your teen descriptive writing. This important skill is then practiced in the remaining informative and narrative writing lessons. In addition, WriteShop teaches—and offers practice in using—a wide array of sentence variations that help to enhance a student’s paper with fresh style and vigor. When combined with strong, dynamic word choices, sentence variations give dull writing new life.

For younger children, WriteShop Primary introduces K-3rd graders to activities that widen their writing vocabulary. Book C contains three  specific descriptive writing lessons. WriteShop Junior, for upper elementary, also provides many opportunities for students to incorporate description.

Learn more here.

Photos: Alice, Dietmar Temps, & Phillip Capper, courtesy of Creative Commons

 

 

Coney Island in My Mind

I would really love to visit Coney Island again. The place is far from the bustling city and getting there is already part of the adventure. One can take the tunnel or drive but whichever way you take when one arrives in the island, it’s like being transported in time. There is that feeling of de`javu one gets when you see the heart of the island for the first time. Maybe it is because of the old films that featured the amusement parks or because as a young child you have had countless dreams of coming here. The place is filled with old buildings and structures that remind us of how our parents and grandparents might have enjoyed the Thunderbolt and the mermaid shows and the parachute drop and all the other parks when they where younger.

The merry-go-round, which has been the logo of the island, has been embedded in the minds of my generation. One cannot fail to notice the romance in the air and the sweet butterfly kisses of past and present lovers who had spent a memorable day in the ride. The air is filled with childish adventure and laughter, that when one is walking the streets one would surely smile and be filled with joy.

The place is like a giant playground without the technologically advanced rides and shows of today’s theme parks. It offers pure delight and tons of fun. It is a place where everyone is invited to enjoy the sights and sounds of the place and be like children once again discover how easier it is to smile and throw our miseries away.

The whole island is an amusement park with candy stores, taverns, night shows and a magnificent boardwalk. The chatter of children’s voices, the happy shrieks of teens, and the smiles of everyone tells one why this place was and will always be America’s happy park. The smell of popcorn and hotdog as one walks the streets to the parks reminds us of simple days when our wants and desires were simpler. The people are friendly and in keeping with the amusement business are always ready to make your visit to the island worth remembering. When one strolls around the commercial center, one can do so leisurely without the need to see everything, to ride everything and taste everything in one day, one keeps coming back to Coney Island because it is removed from the hurried, impersonal and rudeness of the city.

In winter, the place is like a giant ice kingdom, where everything is glistening white and silent. During this time, one can feel the sadness of the city, how it has been suspended in time, and like a bear who sleeps in the winter, it wakes up in the spring. Sadly, not many people visit Coney Island these days. Recently, the magnificent Thunderbolt has fallen from its glory, quite literally. It has lost much of its famous rides and has been stripped of its former grandeur, but nevertheless will always be an icon in America’s culture. The more important it is that we visit Coney Island again, by doing so we will help keep it alive and be a living heritage to our children.

References

Coney Island, wikipedia.com Retrieved June 26, 2006 from
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coney_Island

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