Lesson Plan

John Muir: Observation and Descriptive Writing

Grade Level:
Upper Elementary: Third Grade through Fifth Grade
Literacy and Language Arts
Lesson Duration:
60 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
K.W.3, K.W.4, K.W.5
State Standards:
Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive det

Essential Question

How can you convey your observations of nature through descriptive writing?


Students will be able to:
• Observe objects and surroundings
• Recognize relationships between objects and environment
• Describe personal observations that convey the importance of nature


Understanding of observational writing:

Observational writing uses the senses to convey details through descriptive words. Using universal concepts and tangible experiences, readers are able to picture an experience in their own minds and relate to the author and/or subject matter.


It would be helpful to read some of John Muir’s writings about nature. Excerpts from the following are relevant:



Discuss Observation and John Muir's writing. Perhaps provide books or excerpts for students to read.



Binoculars, art materials (optional)         

Lesson Hook/Preview

John Muir believed that the best way to learn about nature is to observe it. He spent years recording where he found certain plants and animals as well as what time of year he observed them. He used descriptive words that engage our senses and help us to imagine the wild places he visited.


  1. Describe observational writing and how John Muir’s writing about nature inspired others to help with his cause to preserve wild places.

  2. Read (aloud) provided quote of John Muir’s writing (below).

"I drifted about from rock to rock, from stream to stream, from grove to grove. Where night found me, there I camped. When I discovered a new plant, I sat down beside it for a minute or a day, to make its acquaintance and hear what it had to tell... I asked the boulders I met, whence they came and whither they were going."

– John Muir, John of the Mountains

  1. Students choose an animal, plant, or place.

  2. Students observe for at least 5-10 minutes.

  3. Students write a paragraph describing the plant, animal, or place.

  4. Ask them to write about colors, textures, and/or smells, using details that make the reader feel like they are in the moment.


Utilizing senses of sight, hearing, smelling, touch, taste to understand objects or surroundings.

Style of writing that uses details to bring about images in the minds of readers.

Concepts that are common to most people. When used in writing or descriptions, universals help to create understanding and emotions.

Things that can be understood through our senses.

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Last updated: December 17, 2018