Encourage young writers to compose stronger, more exciting sentences with these fun language arts activities.

Banned Word of the Day
Push students to rethink overused words by having a Banned Word of the Day. Some overused words you could ban: big, small, said, nice, like. As a group, discuss more interesting alternatives. For example: gigantic, itsy-bitsy, muttered, friendly, adore. Display banned words inside a red circle with a slash through it on a bulletin board or chalkboard. Challenge students to write around the banned word. Make a game of it by extending the ban to spoken words, too. Anyone who makes it through the whole day without saying the overused word in conversation can put his or her name in a drawing for a special prize.

Play with Punctuation
Demonstrate the importance of end punctuation by playing this fun game. First, write a simple sentence on the board three times. (For example: I walked to the store and bought an apple.) At the end of the first sentence, place a period. At the end of the second sentence, place an exclamation point. At the end of the third sentence, put a question mark. Next, have students take turns reading the sentences out loud. (Encourage them to exaggerate and have fun with it.) Afterwards, have the students write their own sentences. Next, let them recite their sentences while their classmates try to guess which end punctuation they used.

Sentence Flip Book
Have each student staple five pieces of card stock together lengthwise to form a book. Next, have students turn their books so the staples are now at the top. Have them cut the book almost to the top so that it is split into three equal sections. Ask students to write a sentence on the first page: put the noun in the first section, the verb in the middle section and a prepositional phrase in the last section (e.g., The cat / walked / in the garden). Repeat on the following pages, using a new sentence for each page. Encourage students to flip the sections to create a variety of mixed-up sentences. For even more variety, have students share their flip books with one another to write sentences.

ATM Word Bank
Create a classroom Word Bank bulletin board where students can go when they need a more exciting word for their writing. Decorate a recycled box as an ATM (Alternative-word Transaction Machine) and hang it on the board as a place where students can suggest interesting words they’ve come across while reading. Add to the fun by designing your own classroom deposit slips (blank note cards or scraps of paper). Deposited words can go up on the board and students can copy a word off the bulletin board to take with them using withdrawal slips.

Go On a Walk
Young writers often rely on simple verbs when writing, and simple verbs make for boring sentences. Here’s an activity to help students find more active and interesting ways to write the word walk. Begin by finding an open space where kids can move around safely. Next, invite five kids to stand in the front. While the rest of the students are watching, ask one volunteer to walk across the room or area. Ask students if walking was the most exciting way to cross the room. Invite them to come up with other ways of moving and then ask the volunteers to demonstrate. For example, students can tiptoe, skip, hop, march, dance, shuffle, crawl. Give everyone a turn to move or come up with a new verb.

Emotion Motions Book
Beginning writers sometimes get stuck when it comes to showing instead of telling. To give them a resource, create a class “Emotion Motions” book. As a group, make a list of some common emotions: anger, sadness, disappointment, happiness, nervousness, joy, love, jealousy. Create a page for each emotion in a three-ring notebook. Next, discuss how someone might act or behave when they are feeling a certain way. For example: A person who is angry might stomp her feet. A person who is surprised might gasp or put his hand up to his mouth. Record these actions on the appropriate page. Leave the Emotion Motions book at a writing center where students can refer or add to it when they want. —Carmella VanVleet