Developing Productive Skills in Descriptive Writings and Speeches Using Perceptual Verbs and Senses

Teaching verbs of perception, such as hear, see, watch, notice  and similar perceptive verbsinvolves helping students or or English learners to get used with this kind of pattern verbs, which can be followed by object + infinitive without to or object + -ing form. English learners can find out based on such lessons that the infinitive is used after these verbs when we want to say that was heard or seen represented the whole of an action or event, whereas the –ing form is used to suggest that it was heard or seen an action or event in progress.

Also, the -ing form can suggest repetition.
The structure object + past participle after the verbs see, hear, watch, notice etc., denotes a passive meaning of the past participle has a passive meaning:
She heard her name called many times. (= Her name was repeated many times.)
The verb look at can be followed by object + -ing form. In American English, object + infinitive is also possible.
Look at them singing!
Look at them sing! (only in the USA)

The lessons of English as a second language based on teaching verbs of perceptions can be very useful for helping learners to understand the differences and rules of using the simple and the continuous aspect. This can be very difficult for some teachers at certain levels of English knowledge (especially for elementary and pre-intermediate levels), as the continuous aspect exists only in English and young learners or beginners have to use only simple tenses in case of senses as permanent states.

The adjectives and adverbs can also be grouped when they are taught based on the sense modality as sight-adjectives (colours, sizes, seen features), sound-adjectives (tones intensity, heard features), taste-adjectives (as tasted features), touch-adjectives or smell-adjectives.
Teaching sensory verbs of perception is the best way of developing speaking and writing skills, either asking the learners to speak watching pictures and then to describe what they see, or writing about their memories, as everything someone could remember are those visual, sound pictures kept in mind or those unforgettable tastes or feelings of someone’s life, all of them being stored based on senses.

A good example would be an example that shows how senses may help to develop productive skills of writing descriptive compositions. It doesn’t matter if the description should be about a person or a place. For instance, for describing the most admired person, it has to be first decided who this person would be. What about mother?

If someone has to describe his or her mother in a composition about the most admired person, the most important thing for a successful composition would be to answer five questions involving the five senses, such as:

What are the most important memories, as sights, sounds, tastes, smells or feelings/ touch about your  mother?

Sights        Sounds                     Tastes            Smells             Feelings/Touch
her face      her voice                  warm milk         mom's perfume      mom's soft hair
her eyes      mom's laughter             pancakes (taste)  stuffed cabbage    her warm hug
her hair      her song in the kitchen    fruit salad       cakes              kisses on the forehead
her hands     
her smile
her height               
mother’s chair    
mother’s room

And so on… all we keep in our heart or memories as sights, sounds, smells or feelings we cannot ever forget should be listed, as above.

Th only thing that has to be done for writing this composition would be to add adjectives or adverbs together with all verb of senses according to each sense modality for the above memories, and so the composition will describe granny as the most admired person. The same model could be applied for describing a place or a thing.

The secret key for succeeding in writing a good descriptive composition is the use of senses. Using senses for developing productive skills when learning English as the second language is a bright idea of any teacher.

As the above examples and worksheets have already shown, teaching senses means teaching successfully vocabulary and discovering correctly English grammar rules.

If the above example involved a descriptive composition, also narrative ones would be successfully written using the memories related to an event. It is enough to remember what happened and then to say or to write what was seen, heard, felt, touched or smelt and so anyone would be able to develop his or her productive skills.

Some specific worksheets will be further presented, for exemplifying the above statements, as an inspiration source when teaching the English language.


prof. Alina Budianu-Marcu

Colegiul Național Tudor Vladimirescu, Târgu-Jiu (Gorj) , România
Profil iTeach:

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