Vocabulary: Do My Words Paint Pictures?

A mini-lesson in vocabulary excerpted from Writing Lessons for the Interactive Whiteboard (Grades 2–4) by Lola M. Schaefer

  • Grades: 1–2, 3–5

In this vocabulary mini-lesson, children become aware of the difference that word choice makes in a writing piece.

Introducing the Craft Element
Begin your mini-lesson on vocabulary like this:

Teacher: Please shut your eyes and tell me what you see when I say the word eat.
Student answers will vary. Possible answers include gulp, taste, bite, crunch, swallow, and chew.

Teacher: Please shut your eyes again and think of what you see when I say the word boy. What do you see?
Student answers will vary. Possible answers include toddler, baby, teenager, Pete, student, babysitter, neighbor, and older brother.

Teacher: Now, please shut your eyes again and think of what you see when I say My baby brother nibbled the bread.
Student answers will describe the approximate age of the baby and the way a baby’s mouth moves as he nibbles food. You might ask a child to act out nibbling, so that everyone can agree on what they saw in their minds.

The purpose of this short exercise is to help children discover that precise vocabulary calls up a specific image in the mind of the reader or listener. Children quickly recognize that general terms are too vague to paint pictures.

Download These Files
Vocabulary#1

Vocabulary-#2

Vocabulary Sample #1
Image of Sample #1

Mini-Lesson
Display Vocabulary sample #1 on the interactive whiteboard. Read it aloud with expression, then ask:

  • Do you understand what the author has written? Does it make sense?

When children respond that they do understand what the author has written, celebrate. How wonderful that the author achieved his first goal – to make her writing carry meaning. Continue with these questions:

  • Which words or groups of words in this piece paint pictures in your mind?
  • Which image is your favorite? Why?


Vocabulary Sample #2
Image of Sample #2

Repeat this process for sample #2. After both samples have been read and discussed, ask children:

  • Which sample paints the best pictures in your mind? Which has more specific vocabulary?

If children are having a difficult time comparing the two pieces, ask them to come to the interactive whiteboard and use a pen to circle or highlight strong words or groups of words. This exercise will help them see the difference between the two pieces.

Discussion Points
If children are still having a difficult time explaining why ample #2 is the stronger piece, display the samples again and ask:

  • What are the exciting verbs (action words) that this author uses? (glow, spark, flicker, shoot, fan, grow, ignites, guide)
  • What are the specific kinds of trees that this author mentions? (maples, birches, oaks)
  • What are some other specific words that paint pictures in your mind? (campfire, crimson and gold, gusty winds, noon sun, autumn blaze)
  • Would you rather write like sample #1 or #2? Why?

Vocabulary: An Overview of the Craft Element

  1. Use specific names of months, people, streets, mountains, trees, or oceans. (October, maples, birches, oaks)
  2. Use specific verbs that pain pictures in the reader’s mind. (glows, spark, flicker, shoot, fan, grow, ignites, guide)
  3. Try to use similes or metaphors. (glows like a campfire, oaks shoot flames of orange and red, noon sun ignites an autumn blaze, that will guide winter our way)


MORE ACTIVITIES FROM Writing Lessons for the Interactive Whiteboard
Show, Don’t Tell

About the Book
Writing Lessons for the Interactive Whiteboard (Grades 2–4), by Lola M. Schaefer

These easy, step-by-step lessons use the tools of the whiteboard to help students identify the elements of excellent writing and then apply them in their own work. Writing skills covered include all the essentials for grades 2-4 - developing an idea, organizing, using details, writing convincing leads, and more! Includes tips for both Promethean and SMART Board users, plus a CD with 20 writing models to print or display on screen.

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Scholastic Professional offers a range of books, DVDs, Study Guides, web downloads, and other resources and services that can support you as you make the dozens of daily instructional decisions that may forever shape the lives of your students. These resources bring together essential research and effective practice while always recognizing the challenges and pressures you face. Our mission to serve you is shaped by equal measures of passion and compassion. To learn more, visit us at Scholastic Professional .

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