Books to use while teaching word choice:
The Bad Beginnings By Lemony Snicket. A good display of expressive and descriptive word choice throughout the novel.
Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson.
Escape! The story of the Great Houdini by Sid Fleishman.
- Read, Read, Read- Incorporate reading into every day classroom life. Reading is a way of life that students need to be exposed to. Incorporating reading into the school day as often as possible makes an easier transition for students to read more on their own. Exposure to literature increase students vocabularies, styles of writing, exposure to voice and story ideas.
- Read Short Passages Above Grade Level- Select passages that are above the students grade level in order to expose them to new exciting words and expose them to their zone of proximal development. Even though not all students may be able to keep up with the entire text, the exposure to new words is even better.
- Encourage Students to Read Proactively- Give students several passages for them to explore. Ensure all students have highlighters in hand while going through different texts. Have them high light new words, descriptive words, interesting beginnings and ends of sentences and exciting punctuation. Having students find this writing skills on their own will encourage them to do it all the time while reading. Also the things that pop out the most to them they will probably try to incorporate into their own writing.
- Make Sure Students are Comfortable Using Resources- A whole class or two should be dedicated to instructing students on how to properly use sources to benefit their writing. A simple step-by-step guide could be created as a class to show how to find a word in the dictionary, find a synonym in the thesaurus or find facts about their topic online.
- Practice Pulling Meaning from Context- Put a new word on the board and have the students guess the meaning of the word. After a few guesses, discuss the root of the word, words that sound similar and other words that they may already know. Then put the word in a sentence that alludes to the meaning of the word. Students will see how to figure out the meaning of a word by the context it is used in. Have them complete examples on their own.
- Harness the Power of Verbs- Verbs are the energy of the writing world. Explore different passages that use verbs in a way to capture the reader into the writing. Now take the powerful verbs out of the writing and substitute in tired words to show the difference that verbs can make.
- Model Revising for Word Choice- Display examples of your own writing for your students. Together as a class edit the piece of work. Show where word choice can be used to enhance writing. By using the whole class to edit one paper, it can be torn apart and re-pieced together better.
- Make that Thesaurus Work for You- Once students have created a piece of writing have a partner circle or underline tired words throughout their piece. Together they can use a thesaurus to discover new exciting words to enhance their writing. In order for students to think of other words to use, have students act out their story line by line and have a partner dramatically describe the scene. The words used in the description of the scene can be incorporated into the writing of the story.
- Rank Your Words for Intensity- Create a list of intense words ahead of class time. Write each word on a card, written big enough for everyone to read from the front of the class. Give each student a card with an intense word on it. Have the student line up in order of most intense to least intense. Allow students ample time to explore the different words and discuss the order together.
- Give “Tired” Words a Rest- Brainstorm a large list of tired words with your class. The list should include fun, good, nice, bad, really, great, super, special and whatever. As a class make an agreement to not use these words in our writing. Circle the top five tired words that your class likes the least. On large poster paper write the five selected words. In groups of four of five have students write different ways to say the tired words. Post these in your classroom as an easy reminder for your students.
- Create a Word Bank- For different topics discussed in class, regardless of subject, have students create a word bank. Ensure that the word bank is always easily accessible for students so they feel free to pull it out whenever stuck for a word while writing. Or when assigning a writing topic have students create a word bank for that specific subject in order to increase flow in their writing.
- Cut the Clutter- Simple sentences are often better sentences. By keeping to the point writers can then use creative language and style without confusing the reader. When we try to add to many words in our writing it becomes jumbled and misleading. Each sentence should add to the topic of the story in as few words as possible.
- Explore New Words- Have students create their own words for fun. Exploration of new words will firstly help them better understand the words they already know and also a chance to be creative. Allow students free time to create words on their own. Each word they create should have a definition. Then have students write short paragraphs incorporating their new words in a way that makes sense to the reader even though the word is completely new!
- Revise for Clarity- It is nice to include fancy words in our writing to impress our readers with our vast vocabulary but it is important to ensure that our diction does not take away from our message. My grade 12 English teacher called them $10 words and we should use them sparingly throughout your writing. Interesting idea! Have a word bank at the top of a worksheet with words given a price value. Tired words should be worth a lot and exotic words worth little, Give your students a budget that they need to maintain and write a short paragraph.
- WOW Your Students- Students draw a random word from a hat. They have to create a visual image to introduce the word to the class along with the definition, root of word and where it came from. This is an interesting way to incorporate art PLO’s in English class.
- Go Easy on the Modifiers- Although we want our students to create interesting new sentences we can easily go from not enough verbs to too many verbs. Show students the differences between overloaded sentences and short punchy sentences that use sharp verbs instead. I enjoyed this line from page 188, “never let an adverb steal word that should go to a worthy verb.”