Episode 17: Description Skills; Describing Nature

Description Skills
Entrance to Glenwood Canyon from the California Zephyr. Photo by Liz Letz.

Get ready for some jaw-dropping scenery while improving your description skills in English.  We will be describing nature as we travel through scenic Utah and Colorado aboard the legendary California Zephyr. This Episode was produced on December 10, 2015 at RVTV.

Click here to view Episode 17 of Ramping Up your English.

Click here for segment 1 of Episode 17.

Click here for segment 2.

Click here for segment 3.

During this Episode, we really ramp up our description, seeking to do justice to the incredible landscape seen on day two of Amtrak’s California Zephyr Eastbound.

Video Clips: First, let’s climb aboard the California Zephyr.  Click here to see the video clip of the California Zephyr Eastbound Part 2

Click on the California Zephyr Part 3..

Language Objectives

Use action words and nouns as well as adjectives to describe an object – the landscape through which we traveled in the Rocky Mountain region of Colorado.

Academic Content Objectives

Geography: Name and describe the land forms present in the Rocky Mountain region of the United States. Trace the route of the California Zephyr from Sacramento to Chicago. History: Transportation: Identify the states through which the Rio Grande Railroad operated its section of the California Zephyr. Describe the Rio Grande Railroad’s passenger service that existed in the first years of Amtrak. Name the three railroads that cooperatively ran the California Zephyr prior to the existence of Amtrak.

Language Activities: As an English beginner, you may have learned that adjectives are used in English to describe things. That’s true, and you’ll see more advanced adjectives used in this exposure and patterning activity; but you’ll also see how our use of nouns and even verbs can help paint a picture in the mind of our listeners and readers.  Here are some of the words we worked with in describing two picturesque sections of the California Zephyr journey.

Word Categories for describing Ruby Canyon
Word Categories for describing Ruby Canyon
Episode 17.003
Click slides to enlarge. Back arrow to make smaller.

Episode 17.004

Episode 17.005

Episode 17.006

Episode 17.007

Episode 17.008

Episode 17.010

Episode 17.011

Episode 17.012

Episode 17.013

About Description Skills

I realize these descriptive terms are quite a stretch, and they seem more poetic perhaps than descriptive.  Most of this vocabulary is likely to be new to our Intermediate students.  There’s no expectation that viewers will master all or even most of these terms.  The idea is to be exposed to this language – definitely ramped up from a basic description. I recommend choosing a word of two from each slide to incorporate into your own vocabulary.


Watch the video clip California Zephyr, Part 3 with the sound turned off. Write 5 sentences describing the landscape that’s shown from the train.

Speaking of being poetic, we have some English poetry for you in the next episode. Click here for Episode 18.