Unwrapping the 6-Traits with Primary Writers: Word Choice

By Megan Power on April 22, 2010


“My fabulous mom danced around the kitchen like a ballerina as she prepared a scrumptious dinner.”

Yes, this is writing by a kindergartner! Teaching word choice at this age is exciting because students catch on to language quickly and are not afraid to write big words they don’t know how to spell. Try out some of these fun activities to encourage your young writers to play with their words – just like their favorite authors!

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My favorite way to start our work on word choice is to read the Fancy Nancy books written by Jane O'connor. These fun stories give students a concrete background and understanding of word choice.

Here are a few lesson ideas and activities to help your budding writers play with their words:

Color Words

Grab a pack of Crayola crayons and you have the beginnings of great lesson. When students are describing colors they typically use basic color words like red, green, and blue. Once you open their eyes to fun color names such as macaroni and cheese, forest green, and tickle me pink they never go back.

Start by making a list of colors as a whole class lesson. For example, pick the color yellow, pull out each yellowish color, and write the name down on a reference poster. While doing this talk about how there are many different shades of yellow. Continue the discussion about things that are yellow and pick a better color word to describe them. After the lesson have groups of students work on writing down different names for the other basic colors. Keep these charts or papers as a reference for your students when they are writing.

Another tool to have in your writing resource area is paint sample cards. I got a great set from Frazee that has hundreds of colors on a ring.

Once you have your color lists, have students practice using their new fancy color words by describing something. It can be a nicely wrapped present, the clothes they are wearing, or describing an art picture they made. Make sure to encourage and celebrate students who use a fancy color word in their writing.

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Similes and Metaphors

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Teaching similes and metaphors is one of my favorite parts about teaching word choice. Students easily get into the imagery that these create. I usually start by reading the story Quick as a Cricket written by Audrey Wood.  

After I see that students understand the comparison concept, we brainstorm a list of words to describe the students such as kind, funny, silly, loud, pretty, and smart. This year we made a flower and had students write similes and metaphors to describe themselves on each petal. Previous students created rainbows using similes on each color strand of the rainbow.

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Onomatopoeia

Whooaaaaa! Kids love onomatopoeia! It is even fun for them to say the word. Look through your classroom library for tons of examples of authors using onomatopoeia. Making animal noises is a fun way to get your students writing with onomatopoeia. My students also love beginning their stories with their sound words.

Alliteration

Writing whimsical words is what Walter wants to do!

To play with alliteration have students learn tongue twisters and create their own alliteration sentences. I love to have students make an alliteration alphabet class book. Having to use words beginning with the same letter or sound is challenging and forces students to use different words then they normally will not.

"I’m Not afraid of my Words" Chart

I love to encourage students to use better words without worrying about how to spell them. I always have my students stretch out their words, so they are never afraid to try to spell something wrong. I find that this chart (below) helps encourage my students to use fancier words in their writing. Students love to add their fancy words to the chart as they write. I also write the adult spelling next to it. This is not for them to fix their spelling, but for them to see how close their kid spelling is getting to adult spelling.

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Verbs

Many teachers and adults feel that adding great adjectives makes writing great. While adjectives are important, it is really the strong verbs that makes good writing stand out. One way to work on strong verbs is to use or make puppets. With the puppets students can act out different verbs. We also love to act out verbs with our bodies. Physically acting out the words makes students see the difference between verbs like ran, jogged or dashed. After experiencing these they will be better able to determine what the right word is to get their message across.

"Instead of" Chart

Another chart we have in our classroom is the “Instead of” chart. This is where we are constantly adding better words as we think or them or come across them in our learning. To begin this chart we look in our writing and decide what words we are using a lot. Then we try to come up with other words to use instead of the common ones. For example, we have "instead of" words for big such as enormous, gigantic, giant, and huge. As we are reading stories and learning throughout the day we often come upon a word that can be added to our “Instead of” chart. This is also a great time to introduce the word synonym and the concept of a thesaurus. I find students excitedly running into school in the morning with new words to add to this chart.

I hope some of these activities give you a few fresh ideas to assist your students in extending their word choice. As always I would love to hear your ideas and/or any professional books you like to use to teach this exciting concept to your young writers.

Thanks, Megan

Comments

Start by making a list of colors as a whole class lesson. For example, pick the color yellow, pull out each yellowish color, and write the name down on a reference poster. While doing this talk about how there are many different shades of yellow. Continue the discussion about things that are yellow and pick a better color word to describe them. After the lesson have groups of students work on writing down different names for the other basic colors. Keep these charts or papers as a reference for your students when they are writing.
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As a novice teacher (first year teacher), this is incredible!!!!!

Megan,

I love the lessons that you listed above! I teach 8th grade and I feel like I can definitely modify theses lessons to fit the needs of my students. :) I always look forward to reading your posts! Thanks!

Jennifer A.

Jennifer, Thanks for your comment. It is so great when we can share lessons and ideas between such different grade levels! Thanks again for your kind words! Smiles, Megan

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