Descriptive Essay About A Family Tradition


Personal Narrative Writing Prompt -- 100 POINTSEnglish 1 Unit 1Assignment:

In an essay, I want you to tell me about a family tradition you have. Think about the holidays (Thanksgiving,Christmas, Hanukah, Easter, Fourth of July, birthdays, etc.). Does your family do the same thing every year? Doyou always go to someone’s house? Eat your Aunt’s famous potato casserole? Open presents in a certain order?Go bowling or out to the movies after eating a huge dinner?In your essay, I want you to walk me through this tradition from the start to the end. Tell it to me like you woulda story. BE DESCRIPTIVE! As a read it, I should be able to clearly picture everything in my mind. Make sureyou cover the five senses:1.


(what does everything look like?)2.


(what does it sound like? Laughter? What kind of music?)3.


(if there is food, make sure you tell me what it all smells like; make me hungry as I readit!)4.


(what does the food taste like? My mouth should be watering when I’m done reading it)5.


(feel of the wrapping paper in your hands; holding your children; sitting by a fire, etc.)

What I’m looking for in your narrative:

At least three paragraphs

Vivid language


STRONG VOCABULARY (verbs, nouns, etc.)


Figurative language (similes, metaphors, personification, etc.)


Sensory details (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste)


You should be “painting a picture” of the scene with your descriptions

Description of family tradition


Discuss three “events” that take place during this tradition


Told like you are telling me a story (beginning, middle, end, characters, setting, etc.)

Format Requirements (See Example):

MLA Style Heading


Your last name and page number in the upper right corner of the header 

Go to “Insert”



Page Number 

Top of Page

Plain Number 3

Type your last name and hit space once

Part 1: Looking at the Painting

1. Show students the reproduction of Villagers on Their Way to Church by Simon Bening. Have students look silently at the artwork for 30 seconds. Then guide a class discussion by asking the following questions:
• What do you see in this painting?
• What do you notice about the setting?
• What season do you think this is and why?
• What do you think these people are doing and why?
• What details do you notice about the people?
• What do you think is going to happen next in this scene?

2. Chart students' responses.

3. Prompt students to take a closer look at the work of art, focusing on the element of space. Explain that artists can use the space of a manuscript (or paper) to create the illusion of depth. Guide the discussion by asking the following questions:
• What is in the foreground, the middle ground, and the background?
• Which part of the painting appears to be closest to you?
• Which part of the painting appears to be farthest from you?
• Notice the size of the objects in the painting compared to each other. How does the artist show that certain things are far away or close up?
• Does this painting remind you of anything you do with your family?

4. Share some background information about the artwork. Tell students that a man named Simon Bening created this work of art hundreds of years ago in Belgium. This landscape scene shows a group of villagers on the way to church. They are holding candles as they enter the church in celebration of a church holiday observed in February. This small painting was cut out from a manuscript—a book written, illustrated, and assembled by hand. This painting came from a page in the calendar section of a book of hours, which listed important days for the church. (For more information on illuminated manuscripts, see "Looking at Illuminated Manuscripts: Lessons and Ideas for Discussion.")

Part 2: Literature Connection

1. Read students a book on family traditions and talk about the different family traditions depicted in the text. Guide the students in a discussion about the definition of a family tradition. Explain that family traditions can be holiday celebrations, places they visit regularly, gatherings they attend, special meals, birthday celebrations, special time with the family, or religious functions. For example, some families spend Friday nights eating pizza and watching a movie together. Others have big family get-togethers in the park every summer.

2. Display the reproduction of the Bening manuscript page again. Ask students to recall the family tradition depicted in this work of art.

3. Ask the students to talk with their families (parents, relatives, or guardians) about two or more family traditions. Have students write them down for homework.

4. The next day, ask students to share their favorite traditions with the class.

Part 3: Writing about Family Traditions

1. Tell students to write a cohesive paragraph about one family tradition. Begin the writing activity by having them use a graphic organizer or thinking map, such as a tree map, to organize their ideas. The graphic organizer should include the following subheadings: Who? Where? When? What? Why?

2. Guide students to write their topic sentence. Then have them add supporting details to their paragraph, reminding them to use descriptive words about the setting and time-order words (e.g., first, next, then, later) to connect their ideas. The closing sentence of the paragraph can express an opinion about how they feel about this tradition.

Part 4: Family Tradition Collage

1. Instruct students to share with a partner the family tradition they wrote about in their descriptive paragraph. Then ask students to explain how they might visually represent the tradition. Students will share the characters (family members) and the setting of the collage with a partner.

2. Pass out the watercolors and brushes.

3. Have students pick three colors. Model how to paint a watercolor wash by dividing the picture plane into foreground, middle ground, and background. Tell students to select a different color for each section and begin. Remind them to cover the entire paper with paint. Let it dry thoroughly.

4. Tell students to depict their family tradition with paper cutouts on top of the watercolor wash. Before handing out scissors, remind students of the way Bening used size in the manuscript painting by asking these questions:
• Look at the manuscript again. What size are the figures and objects in the foreground? Middle ground? Background?
• Think about your own artwork. Where do you want to put the people, objects, and elements of your setting (e.g., buildings, trees, furniture)? What size will you make them?

5. Pass out construction paper. Have students cut out the figures, objects, buildings, trees, or furniture that will be in their collage. They might want to sketch details on paper before cutting out the elements. They may also either cut the whole figure from one piece of paper, or cut out separate parts of the body and glue the pieces together.

6. Before they glue the figures and objects onto the watercolor wash, have students arrange them on the paper by placing the smaller plants or objects in the background. Next tell students to place the medium-size figures or objects in the middle. Some of the objects in the middle may overlap those in the back. Then have them place the larger objects, figures, or trees in the foreground.

7. Tell students they can add details to the scene with fine-point felt-tip markers.

Part 5: Class Presentations

1. Have the advanced students revise their paragraphs to include any details they added to their final collages.

2. Have all students present their paragraphs and artworks to the class.

One thought on “Descriptive Essay About A Family Tradition

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *