This exercise came to me in an email distributed by the Highlights Foundation. Kim Griswald presented this tip at the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop at Chautauqua, as a way to help the writer understand what it really means to "show, don't tell."
"To find out if you're using all five senses, get a set of five highlighters, each in a different color. Go through your text and highlight all the sensory details, using a different color for each sense: sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch. You'll be able to see right away if you're favoring one sense to the exclusion of others. Sight is the sense most of us favor, though if asked what stays in the memory longest, smells, tastes, or sounds often come to the fore. If your writing leaves a sensory vacuum, go back and add sensory images to enrich your story and allow readers to experience it as if they were there."
This sounded like an interesting exercise, so I color-coded Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson. Here is how it came out:
I used purple for sight, green for sound, orange for taste, pink for smell, and blue for touch.
Next I tried it with one of my picture books:
Ouch. There's a lot of work to be done. I like how Karma Wilson selects words from the various senses to add pop to her story. It's definitely something to learn from.