Poetry and creative writing thrive on sensory language. Sights, smells, tastes, touch and sounds are the pallet of word paintings. It’s imperative to introduce a child to the fun of converting their hyper-awareness of the sensory world around them into words. Here are some exercises that I use with college writing classes that are just as valid for younger students. With each of the following examples ask the student to:

 1. Give a written, objective description of the object or sensory experience. It might help to say, “Pretend to tell a friend what the object or sensation is like over the phone.”

  2. Ask for a written, subjective description. Some prompts…I like/hate this______. It reminds me of_____.

Note: I think it is very important early on in the educational process to establish a clear distinction between personal feelings or associations (subjective) and the reality of that object (objective). An educated person will not conflate subjective feeling with objective reality e.g. I hate broccoli. Broccoli is bad. I love dogs. Dogs are good.

Once we are clear on that distinction we can use subjective feelings and associations to form word-picture metaphors.   

 3. Optional. Use the subjective associations of a sensory experience to describe a situation or person. This is hard. This is the translation of feelings into similes and metaphors.

E.g. I was so scared my mouth wouldn’t work, like right after you bite into a green apple.

Uncle John’s voice was like walking on the gravel in our driveway.

 Sight:

Hold up an ordinary but fairly complex object that requires more than one or two words to describe. I use a Russian nesting doll in class. Then ask the student to go through steps 1,2,3.

 Hearing:

Ask your student to close his/her eyes and listen to a simple sound e.g. a squeeze toy or a bouncing ball. Go through steps 1,2,3.

Touch:

Ask your students to reach into a bag or covered container without looking in and touch the contents. Gravel is good or corn meal etc. Steps 1,2,3.

 Smell:

Pour a distinctive smelling liquid (lemon juice, vinegar, pine cleaner) onto a paper towel and ask your student to go through steps 1,2,3.

 Taste:

Mask the identity of a beverage and ask your student to go through 1,2,3.