I invented Paragraph POW! as a way to make writing practice more fun. We practice on special paper—lines in a box, just like on the state writing test. One difference: our paper has an awesome Paragraph POW! logo at the top.
Kids live in the moment, not necessarily paying attention to what’s going on around them. They get impatient—they just don’t care to notice details, and they certainly don’t want to hear about them.
You can see why kids have trouble describing things.
I created several Paragraph POW! prompts that challenge kids to describe. These prompts are often real brain-busters for the class—I’m warning you! Don’t load the kids up with too many of these at once. Have them do one every few days or each week, building their ability to describe.
- Remind students that a descriptive essay has its own structure. It’s often built around 3 paragraphs that delve into details about 3 main attributes. It does NOT devolve into a persuasive essay or personal narrative.
- Challenge kids to think of at least one attribute for each of their five senses. That should give them ideas that will flesh out their descriptive essays.
- Suggest that kids make quick decisions. This isn’t a contest to see who can design the best treehouse, it’s a prompt to describe a treehouse. Make some quick decisions about what that treehouse looks like, then spend your effort describing it.
- Challenge students to make at least one of their descriptions a simile. Once kids practice this skill, they get pretty good at it. They can compare a treehouse to a watchtower, a sunset to a fading spotlight. Whatever. Any stab at figurative language will be appreciated by the assessors.
It’s very important to praise students’ efforts as they learn to write descriptive essays. It really is a hard style to master, so compliment progress. I like to choose several good papers and spotlight them under the document camera. With descriptive essays, I try to find something special in as many student papers as I can. It gives students hope as they tackle the next tough descriptive topic.
Here are the Paragraph POW! descriptive writing prompts. Click on each link for a printable PDF. I have also given you an all-purpose Paragraph POW! sheet so you and your students can write to your own prompts.
- Please explain to an alien what a bird is.
- Describe the qualities of a true friend.
- Describe a treehouse or a clubhouse.
- Describe a terrible day.
- Everybody has happy days. Tell what happened on your happiest day.
- Describe an enchanted castle.
- Describe a beautiful sunset.
- Describe a messy room.