Session 5 Planning descriptive writing

Objectives Key terms Materials
  • To decide the content of a paragraph.
  • To develop detail – content and description.
  • To plan a description collaboratively and independently.
  • To write a paragraph including topic sentence and detail contained in their plan.

Paragraph: a section of a piece of writing. A new paragraph marks a change of focus, a change of time or, in dialogue, a change of speaker.

Key ideas: main ideas around which a text is organised.

Topic sentence: a sentence, often near the start of a paragraph, which identifies the main focus of that paragraph.

Spider diagram: a visual planning framework which is non-linear and, like a web, starts in the centre.

  • Flipchart or whiteboard
  • Teacher Sheet 5.1 (this can be used to prepare flipchart in advance)
  • Pupil Sheet 5.1 (one per pair)
  • Pupil Sheet 5.2 (one per pupil)

Remember (Time: 1 minute)

  • Remind pupils of the definition and purpose of a paragraph: to organise ideas or information for the reader.
  • Tell pupils that today they will focus on how to organise ideas in paragraphs logically and to make them interesting.
  • Remind pupils about topic and explain that in the same way texts consist of paragraphs organised around topic sentences, each paragraph is built up from some key ideas. These must be organised inside the paragraph in the same way that paragraphs must be organised in a text.

Model (Time: 5 minutes)

  • Explain that this session is about how we collect and organise ideas about a topic, once we have decided what our topics will be.
  • Introduce the title The Empty House and write this on the flipchart/whiteboard. For an example see Teacher Sheet 5.1. Draw an empty spider diagram on the flipchart/whiteboard.
  • Tell the pupils that this is a spider diagram which is a planning framework used to prepare writing.
  • Model thinking aloud some key ideas and create a spider diagram. Explain that each of these key ideas will produce a topic sentence and that this piece of writing will contain five paragraphs organised around five topic sentences.
  • Ask pupils in which order they think things should be described.
  • Discuss and list, incorporating pupils’ suggestions as appropriate. Note: Select one key idea, for example, garden, and explain that each key idea must be properly planned and developed to ensure that it is fully expanded and interesting.
  • Model development of detail. (See Teacher Sheet 5.1.) Ensure decisions/ideas are verbalised.

Try (Time: 4 minutes)

  • Give out Pupil Sheet 5.1.
  • Allocate key ideas to pairs and explain that pupils must complete the planning process for their key ideas using the Teacher Sheet ‘garden’ example as a model. Think of at least three ideas and write on the sheet.
  • Allow two minutes.
  • Quickly take feedback and create a complete model on flipchart/whiteboard version.

Apply (Time: 6 minutes)

  • Ask the group to create a complete spider diagram to describe the scene of Christmas Eve (or another family celebration) – briefly note suggestions/choices on whiteboard/OHT.
  • Give out Pupil Sheet 5.2 for pupils to complete.
  • Allow five minutes for pupils to complete as much as possible.

Secure (Time: 4 minutes)

  • Pupils share their ideas with the class, stating the topic and the details within it, which they will describe.
  • Pupils should write a paragraph (five sentences) to describe their first topic idea and the detail included in their spider diagram.


  • Make a class display of spider diagrams/concept maps/pattern notes that pupils have seen or used in subjects other than English.