For each entry, the first section applies to the generic items found in most classrooms, plus items specific to an elementary classroom. The second section will contain items found in a secondary room.
white board, markers, eraser, door with little window in it, bulletin boards, displayed art/school work, posters, window, bookshelves with books, teacher’s desk, computer, printer, garbage can, pencil sharpener, grade/attendance book, coffee mug, flowers…
JR/SR classroom: maps on wall, atlas, dictionaries, threasurus, computer stations, plastic trays for class work/homework, garbage bin, pencil sharpener, desks with graffitti or carvings, battered chairs, sparce ‘personal to teacher’ decor, themed rooms: Long metal…
Sounds: students talking/laughing/whispering/shouting, singing, music being played, teachers talking/yelling/teaching, fire alarm going off, intercoms buzzing on, doors slamming, sneakers squeaking, voices echoing in the hallway, chairs scraping, backpacks…
JR/SR classroom: A lockers slamming shut out in the hall, swearing, back talk, conversation, rude noises, belching, catty chatter, voiced threats or detentions being handed out, droning teacher
Smells: food from the cafeteria, coffee, candy, scent from flowers, sweaty bodies, glue, paint, crayons, markers, warm smell of heat turning on, seasonal smells from art projects (peppermint, pumpkin, jelly beans, apple, etc), disinfectant, hand sanitizer, warm smell of…
JR/SR classroom: Cologne, purfume, hairspray, body spray, too-sweet lip gloss, body odor, cigarette smoke/skunky pot smell clinging to clothes and hair, smelly shoes, food mouldering in backpacks brought to class
Tastes: wooden pencil, rubbery eraser, chewing gum, candy, water, acidic marker, cupcakes, snacks
JR/SR classroom: after-cigarrette/pot taste, other drugs, breath mints/sprays, pop, coffee, energy drinks
smooth desktops, angular pencils, scratch of pens/pencils over paper, hard floor, fuzzy carpet, rubbery eraser, vibration of pencil sharpener, hard seat, cold/warm air, crumple of jacket where it hangs over the back of your chair, heavy backpack strap, your foot on the…
JR/SR classroom: Same, but no crayons, lol
–The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.
Example 1: The door slammed shut as my last student escaped, and I surveyed the damage. Glitter twinkled in the air. The white board had turned to an odoriferous rainbow of jelly, apple juice, and strawberry yogurt. Water dripped from the overflowing sink. My shoes squished in the carpet as I made my way to the faucet. Not bad for my first day….
–Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.
Example 1: (Metaphor) The timer blared, a death knell ending both the test and the hopes of every student in the room…
Think beyond what a character sees, and provide a sensory feast for readers
Setting is much more than just a backdrop, which is why choosing the right one and describing it well is so important. To help with this, we have expanded and integrated this thesaurus into our online library at One Stop For Writers. Each entry has been enhanced to include possible sources of conflict, people commonly found in these locales, and setting-specific notes and tips, and the collection itself has been augmented to include a whopping 230 entries—all of which have been cross-referenced with our other thesauruses for easy searchability. So if you’re interested in seeing a free sample of this powerful Setting Thesaurus, head on over and register at One Stop.
On the other hand, if you prefer your references in book form, we’ve got you covered, too, because both books are now available for purchase in digital and print copies. In addition to the entries, each book contains instructional front matter to help you maximize your settings. With advice on topics like making your setting do double duty and using figurative language to bring them to life, these books offer ample information to help you maximize your settings and write them effectively.
Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling.
Mr. H. says
This is a fantastic resource, and I will use it often. Thank you for doing this.
But I had to laugh, as a teacher myself, at the dichotomy between the general positivity and innocense of the lower grades references, and the general negativity reflected in the upper grades. Sadly, you hit the nail!!
Woot! Thanks lapillus!
Marian, I think that was the mimeograph machine, and I totally remember that smell, too. It was always on my hands (along with the purple smudges) after getting one of those sheets.
Thanks for the props, Nora!
Thanks for the award–we’re so honored! Our fellow bloggers are the BEST!!
The way we all grew up differently is what makes our descriptions unique. Take classrooms, for instance–all of us have slightly different memories of the same thing–so wehn we flesh out a setting, we draw on those details that stand out to us.
For me, I remember the smells of forgotten baloney sandwiches in the coat closet area and chalk (we still had chalkboards back then in Elementary school).
Mary Witzl says
I love the smells sectıon too! I can stıll remember that lunch cupboard smell of cheap wood, bananas, and bologna.
As for sweaty bodies, you ought to be in one of my classrooms here when the sun is high in the sky and all the boys are present and accounted for. W-O-W.
This one is definitely going to come in handy.
By the way, I’ve awarded you an award over on my blog. If you’ve had it before just enjoy the mention!
Thanks for creating this awesome blog!
Nora MacFarlane says
What a great blog! I find myself stopping by often.
This was great! I had to giggle at sweaty bodies in the smell section. My nine year old son came home and said his teacher said that they should start wearing deodorant soon!
When I was a teacher, I had this one little boy who NEVER brushed his teeth, so I’d give him breathmints for motivation when he’d finish his work (which he needed motivation for that anyway, it was Win-win!)
I always start this exercise thinking the list will be short; it’s amazing how much stuff you’re able to come up with.
PJ, I think that smell and taste make the most sensory impact in writing. Yet, they’re the most underutilized. I try to give those extra attention, but taste is really hard for me, for some reason.
You took me back in time. I was wondering what I smelled in school, and I remembered that we used some strange method of making photocopies (this was back in the Middle East). The copies were lettered in purple ink, and they smelled really strong and chemical-ly. I can’t even define the smell, just that it was very sharp and pungent, like nail polish remover.
As the copies came out of the machine, they were damp, too, and took a little while to dry. God alone knows what kind of chemicals went into them. I just hope no one ever ate any.
PJ Hoover says
I just love the smells section you guys come up with!
Ghost Girl says
I love this kind of “free-writing” prep. I do this too, especially if I’m stuck or just need a little help putting myself into the mood.