One of the best strategies I've used over the past few years to boost my students’ spoken and written vocabulary is to have them generate long lists of “new and improved” words once a week.
In the fall, I tell the class that when they were “little kids," way back in 1st grade, they used words like good, bad, happy, nice, big and so on to describe things. But now that they're sophisticated, mature 3rd graders who know how to paint a picture with their words, we can say “Bye-bye baby words!”
Each week at the top of a sheet of chart paper I write one “baby” word. As a group we generate a list of about 10 new and improved ways to say that word. For example, if “walk” is our baby word of the week, students come up with words like amble, stroll, saunter, scurry, scamper, shuffle, race, and march, which I write on the chart paper. Throughout the rest of the week students use post-it notes to add new synonyms to the chart they find in books, hear in conversations or on television, etc.
On Fridays, I take all of the words students have gathered, add them to the chart, then print a copy for each student. These pages are then hole-punched and inserted into their writing folders where they can be easily accessed during the writing and revision processes. During writing lessons, all I need to say is “Watch out for baby words!” and the students immediately begin to search for words they can write in a more interesting way. In addition to compiling the list of synonyms, we will also take the lists and come up with antonyms for our baby words as well as sub-categories, such as ways to walk slowly and quickly.