Clarity in writing requires knowledge of word choice when adding details to writing. Finding concise words that capture ideas a writer wants to convey to readers is challenging. Strong writers use specific, strong, and precise words to communicate. Factors that determine the writer's choice of words include diction, tone, meaning (both connotative and denotative), and specificity. Modeling and guided practice of these concepts are essential first steps for second graders. I have found that mentor texts can be provide examples that help students concretely understand word choice and be able to apply the concepts in their own writing.
I like to hook students into my lesson with a video. First, I show the video of ▶ My Crayons Talk (with lyrics). Prior to showing the video, I ask students to pay attention to the verbs in the story. Then, I read a book entitled Miss Alaineus by Debra Frasier. We discuss how words influence the sensory image of the story. Using prior knowledge, students review the five senses they learned in science: see, feel, hear, taste, smell. Word choice should enliven our senses as we read the story.
Then we view my Word Choice Flip Chart to further elaborate on the distinctions among strong and weak use of nouns verbs, adjectives, adverbs, etc. Students view a few example and watch ▶ Strong Verbs video to encourage them to use more effective word choices as they write.
I model writing that incorporates word choices that best express the writer's ideas so students can see another concrete example. Using paint sample squares that display different gradients in shades, I ask students to select a descriptive word so that we can explore different related words with different "shades" of meaning. We selected the word "big." I wrote "big" on the lighter shade of the paint sample square. Then, we continue to write the "deeper shades" of this word as we continue into the darker gradients: large, huge, gigantic, enormous. After the demonstration using different words and plotting out shades of meaning using the paint sample square, I inform students that they will create their own writing, using the word choice technique I modeled.
Using the SIX TRAITS WRITING RUBRIC, I ask students to pair with a partner and focus on the "word choice" section of the rubric. Students discuss their ideas and writing plans with their partners. Once they are ready, I distribute story paper so students can write and illustrate their samples of effective word choices in their writing. Students create a book using the rubric and the mentor texts from earlier in the lesson to guide them.
As students shared their story, I asked them how they selected their words to enhance their writing. We talk a bit about tier 2 words, which are a big part of Common Core (tiered vocabulary is discussed in the Appendix of the standards). Students discuss how they use the "Banish Boring Words" book to substitute simpler words for more complex, descriptive ones (see my reflection in this section for more on this resource).