5 Minute Writing Activity-Descriptive Lists

This is a quick, simple and fun 5 minute writing activity.  It can be about ANY topic. It’s also a great exercise to prepare students for descriptive writing pieces.


The easiest way to conduct this lesson is to have your students or child choose a photo, magazine picture or old calendar page to write about. 

Calendar Picture of The Grand Canyon-5 minute writing activity
Grand Canyon Calendar Page

*This post contains affiliate links.  For more information, see my disclosures here.*


If you don’t have access to a picture, choose a food, like watermelon. Have the students write a list about the food and then eat it as a reward for their work!

A girl holding a watermelon, 5 minute writing activity
A girl eating a slice of watermelon


Another option is choosing a location. Take a piece of paper, clipboard and pen to a park, creek, restaurant, mall, hillside, playground, etc. Have the students or child write about what they hear, see, feel, think.

A playground, 5 minute writing activity

Image by cherylt23 from Pixabay 

Common Core State Standards

NOTE: This activity can address the following Common Core Standards: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.K.2.C, L.K.2.D, L.1.2.E, L.2.5.A, W.4.3.D

Steps to Complete this 5 Minute Writing Activity!

  1. Tell the storyline:  For 5 minutes you’re going to write all the words that you think of when you look at your picture (or think of watermelon, or look at the playground, etc.) 
  2. Tell the students that the goal is to write as many related words as possible. Spelling is not the focus in this activity.
  3. Explain to the students that if they want to write a word that they don’t know how to spell, they should write it phonetically. That means that the child writes the sounds that he/she hears when the word is spoken.
  4. Now, give your students a blank piece of paper.

5. Encourage the students to write their lists in vertical columns.  This isn’t necessary, but after conducting this lesson the first time, I learned that the columns make it easier for the students to read later. 

A list of descriptive words about watermelon, 5 minute writing activity

6. Set the timer for 5 minutes.

7. Watch the students write. Help any students that are stuck by giving them 1-2 words to get them started.

Students writing descriptive words, 5 minute writing activity

8. When the 5 minutes is up, give your students time to show their pictures and read their lists!

A field of lavendar, 5 minute writing activity
A child's list of descriptive words about lavendar
a picture of a tiger
A child's list of descriptive words about tigers

Print the Lesson


It’s important to note here that a popular component of Fun Writing Ideas are simple art accents that motivate writers and reward them for their work.

Calendar pictures are the most popular art accents that I use. 

When we’re not using calendar pages, my students and campers add simple art accents to the border of their paper.

In the above examples, one student created her own lavender fields art accent to fill her border.  Another student added his own tiger stripes art accent.

To go along with the watermelon descriptive list, I had posted a sample watermelon art accent:

Lined paper with a watermelon slice drawn in the border

Once students were finished with their 5 minute list, they took time to draw a watermelon in the border of their paper.

Descriptive words about watermelon
A list of descriptive words about watermelon
A list of descriptive words about watermelon

9. Lastly, have your students put their list and picture back to back in a plastic page protector*.


60 Seconds-Nouns Adjectives Verbs

a list of nouns that start with the letter m

Spin a Punctuation!

Children write a silly sentence

Describe. Guess.

A child thinking in front of a group of students