Sensory Details

Contributor: Erin Jones. Lesson ID: 11803

Our five senses are what help us experience the world around us. If you want someone to share an experience that's important to you, what better way than to have them sense what you sensed? Learn how!



English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Otter, Beaver
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!


What do your five senses have to do with writing? Is it just feeling the pencil (or keyboard!), seeing the paper (or screen!), hearing the pen on paper (or clicks and beeps!), smelling the sweet smell of literary success, and tasting the fruits of your labor?

In the previous Related Lessons in this Personal Narrative Writing series, you learned about the components of a personal narrative.

If you missed any of the Related Lessons, you will find them in the right-hand sidebar.

So far, you have explored:

  • narrow focus
  • perspective
  • mood or feeling

In this lesson, you will explore sensory details, the final component of writing a great personal narrative.

Let's get started!

Can you name your five senses? Turn to your parent or teacher and rattle off all the senses you can remember.

They are:

  • sight
  • hearing
  • touch
  • taste
  • smell

When great writers use sensory writing, they incorporate the five senses into their personal narratives to make the reader feel as though he or she is in that moment.

The following example includes very obvious sensory detail:

I looked around the brightly-lit classroom to find 20 pairs of eyes glaring at me in anticipation. Susie Smith, the smartest kid in the class, who happened to sit directly in front of me, turned her head so quickly that her thin, brown ponytail nearly smacked me across the face. She gave me a wicked little toothless smirk as her eyes flickered behind her thick, black plastic-framed glasses. I dug my thumbnail into the soft, yellow painted wood of my number two pencil. I felt the fire of embarrassment burn in my cheeks. I looked down feverishly at my paper as I tried to sweep away the pink and black swirled bits of rolled eraser. I could still smell the rubber and graphite mix that had once been my attempt at the answer. "Um," my voiced trembled, "32?" I squeaked, questioning my response.
I still felt those eyes bearing down on me like I was wearing 100 wool sweaters in the dead of summer. I sat with my head lowered, my eyes fixed on my eraser-smudged paper for what seemed like an eternity. The room was silent except for the ticking of the clock. Tick, tick, tick.
"That's correct. Who would like to answer number eight?"
The room was filled with "Ooos" and "Pick me." I suddenly felt lighter; the dryness in my mouth began to fade along with the flush in my face
  • Were any of the senses included in this writing example?
  • Does the author appeal to any of the five senses?
  • Does the author refer to what she could see? Hear? Touch? Taste? Smell?

Talk with your parent or teacher about the examples of sensory writing in this example. Here are some questions to guide your thinking:

  • What did the author see?
  • What did the author hear?
  • What did the author touch?
  • What did the author taste?
  • What did the author smell?

Are there any senses that weren't included in this example?

Yes! Why do you think the author chose not to include what she could taste? Perhaps it didn't fit in this story. Share your thinking with your parent or teacher.

Since this experience is about a time when the author didn't know an answer to a question in class, it was not really relevant for the author to share what she could taste. The author was not eating during this seed story. However, if this seed story had been about a picnic that the author attended, it would have been appropriate to include sensory writing about the sense of taste.

As the author, you have the choice to include sensory details that best explain the event to your reader. You may choose to include all senses in your seed story, or you may chose to include one. It's up to you! You're the author, but be sure to use relevant sensory details.

In the Got It? section, you will practice identifying sensory writing, and practice writing your own sensory details.

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