Word Choice, one of the Six Traits of Writing, is a favorite trait to practice using W.5.4: producing clear and coherent writing in chich the development is appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. I want to do a lesson specifically for Word Choice because so often I notice kids taking the "easy" way out, and using basic words, when they should be exercising their vocabulary chops! I believe what I like the most is how drastically they improve their writing when using sophisticated vocabulary. When pointed out, the kids recognize, and are up for the challenge of creating fabulous paragraphs.
To start things off, I ask them to write about their perfect day (A Perfect Day). I don't give any other instruction, other than it's a warm up, not a regular writing assignment, and one half page will suffice (A Perfect Day). I have many writers in my class who find a half a page difficult to stick with, but I make assurances they can finish their story later.
After they have written intensely for about three minutes, I call "time" and they share their paper with a nearby classmate (Reading Partner's Story) They take turns reading each paragraph and there's a lot of laughter in the classroom (Reading Partner's Story) This is a popular topic I figured would be easy to write, and I'm right (or should I say, correct...)
Next, they read through their partner's paper again and cross out (one thin line- not scribble) words that can be replaced with more interesting versions. There's a bit of hesitation by some, but I remind that it's not any different than peer editing.
They pass the papers back to the original owner, and we have a quick discussion and share moment about improvements (or not) that have been made (Discussing Word Choice).
I put a copy of the assignment on the Smart Board. It's titled, Tired oops Exhausted Words classwork which means, of course, that the word "tired" should be improved, as well.
I explain to the kids that they'll be choosing some of the most tired words they know from a various lists and using the thesaurus to improve those words. I begin by writing a few examples on the Smart Board (Contributing to the list). On the left is the boring word and on the right they come up with an improved synonym (Improving Word Choice) (The example on the Smart Board lacks the headings "Bor-ring...snooze" and "Zesty!" but those are included on the downloadable copy.)
They're eager to get started as soon as I pass out the lists. The thesaurus box is relocated to the front of the room and they come up and grab one (Picking a Thesaurus) There were a few kids who stubbornly stayed in their seats because they wanted to come up with the words on their own. I didn't say anything to those kids, but observed each eventually pick one up. Creating the two lists was a success, (Completing both lists simultaneously) and the kids really got into it.
Next, the kids return to their seats with their lists and I pull up the "List of boring words" link on the Smart Board (Checking out the improved list). This is where I show them a list of words and their fantastic alternatives. The "boring" words they used to create their lists are the same as these words, and they compare some of the synonyms they found in the thesaurus to see if any of those are the same.
I have printed the link they're looking at, and each child gets a copy (which after the homework they will leave in their desks for future writing assignments.) We head out to the amphitheatre for the final leg of the lesson (A gorgeous day for observations). The kids spread out and start observing their surroundings (Hmmm...what to describe?). Their assignment is to write a descriptive paragraph about what they see, using fabulous word choice found on their new lists (Getting Comfortable as they Observe)
When we return to the classroom, a few of the phrases and sentences are written on the board as well as kids sharing (Student reads her descriptive paragraph) and two agreeing to be videotaped.
They have a similar assignment to do for homework, (Tired oops Exhausted Words homework).
We'll do a second lesson on Word Choice tomorrow before concentrating on another of the Six Traits of Writing.