Writing the senses

Encouraging playfulness in children’s writing (and maybe in adult’s writing, too)

The inaugural ‘Discover Challenge‘ at WordPress Blogging the Senses has reminded of the time I worked with groups of Year 1s (5 and 6 year olds) and Year 5s (9 and 10 year olds) and I asked the children to use all of their senses to write about their school jumper.  I wrote a post about it here.

I told the children not to worry about spelling or grammar but made it clear that they could help each other out with this if they wanted to and, of course, they could ask me or their teacher for help.  They worked collaboratively, in pairs, one younger and one older child together, and I encouraged them to talk about their ideas before they wrote anything down.  They had permission to help each other and to copy each other, if they wanted to.  It wasn’t a silent classroom – there was a purposeful buzz of noise.

My School Jumper - a writing exercise using all five sensesThere was time for the children to draw and colour in their school jumpers.  Some of them then added their ‘sense poems’ around the shape of their drawings.  I loved the fact that at least one of them coloured their school jumper blue even though their uniform was brown.  Perhaps they were thinking of the colour they’d like their uniform to be.  This willingness to play with the parameters they’d been set gave me a sense  that the children were experiencing some freedom in this exercise, that they didn’t feel hemmed in or prescribed by an exact set of rules.

Some of their descriptions were wonderfully imaginative and charming:

My school jumper is as brown as a cello

as brown as sausages

as brown as burnt toast

My School Jumper - a writing exercise using all five senses

The good thing about writing about a jumper is that you can take it off and give it a good sniff and rub it against your ear to hear the kind of sounds it makes:

It smells like soap, trees, wood and cheese strings.

It sounds like wind, sea, air and a train.

You can also give it a good lick:

My school jumper taste like furry



on my tounge

furry jumperI’ve never tried this writing exercise with adults but I’m tempted to give it a go one day, perhaps as a warm-up exercise.  Permission to break rules, to not write syntactically, to believe in blue when brown is right in front of you, could be joyfully liberating.  It could be disastrous, too, of course but I would love to see what would happen.

Encouraging creativity and not being prescriptive feels pretty topical, in the UK at least, with a new government guideline to do with children’s writing issued this very week (this one about the correct use of exclamation marks, believe it or not!!).

Anyway, perhaps you’ve used similar exercises based around the five senses? I’d love to know what they are.  Have you used them with adult writers?  How did they get on?  Looking forward to some responses with or without the exclamation marks. !

10 thoughts on “Writing the senses”

  1. Love this post, it appeals to the child in all all of us. I’ve been running a monthly ‘Pop in and write poetry’ for adults for five years and often take sensory things in for warm ups. The table can also look like one of those ‘nature tables’ in primary schools years ago, but some of the resulting poems are wonderful. Good as prompts for Haiku too

    Liked by 1 person

  2. If you ever put this out there as an actual blog challenge then I’m in! (Did I use the exclamation mark correctly? I went to a school where if you parked your car outside for long enough your wheels might get nicked.)
    This is such a lovely post. And you’ve sparked a random memory that all my school woollies were lovingly knitted for me by my Nan. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! Thanks, Kerry. Don’t wait for the challenge, write the post anyway. Thanks for sharing that memory about your knitted school woollies – we had our fair share of those, too and I can still remember the smell of wet wool drying on school radiators after the class had been caught in a downpour! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Children are the best creative people who are pretty honest and straight forward about how they feel. Sadly that starts diminishing as we grow.. Lovely post to remind ourselves of the innocence in a child’s play.. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah that’s the magic of letting one be to do the things one ought to do (good learning tasks ofcourse); best example is how you let them do what they do the best.. 🙂 ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi I have done this with adults in a different way. They used one line of alliteration, one simile, one metaphor, personification and a line of onomatopoeia to describe a topic EG the sun. Put together they make a lovely poem!

    Liked by 1 person

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