The purpose of this blog is to give examples for you to discuss with your children how they can choose words that are more powerful or appropriate or creative in their writing, instead of using words that are more common but less imaginative.
Because they have lots of words to choose from when writing, it is important to choose those words that most powerfully or creatively or appropriately describe an event or person or thing. Here are some examples that offer a choice between commonly used words and more powerful or appropriate words to use in the situations described by the examples. Read each statement once, speaking the word “blank” where a blank occurs, and then read it again, asking your child to suggest words that fit logically. Then mention the second set of words and explain why they are a better choice.
This exercise offers a great opportunity to teach your child how to combine the use of a thesaurus (online or hard copy) with a dictionary to identify a wider choice of words for use in writing.
Example #1: Our team had worked very hard in a season that began with two losses, followed by a tie and then 5 wins in a row. So now we were in the playoffs…facing a team that was undefeated and had outscored opponents by an average of 4 goals.
Game day came, and we arrived at their field. They had a band and cheerleaders and stands full of fans. We felt _______.
Commonly used words: afraid, timid, not confidant, anxious, jittery, nervous.
Words with stronger emotions: intimidated, unnerved, weak-kneed.
The teams took to the field. They had several players who were bigger than our players and in the first period they outscored us three goals to none. Those players were very physical, pushing and shoving and tripping, and two got yellow penalty cards. We felt that they (choose phrases) ________________
Commonly used phrases: were jerks, were nasty.
Phrases more specific with stronger emotions: were poor sports, were bullies, were trying to frighten us.
Nonetheless, we continued to play as hard as we could; we did not give up. And guess what? We won by forfeit. The referee discovered that one of their players was not eligible! We felt (choose words or phrases) ______________
Commonly used phrases: good, pleased, happy.
Phrases more specific with stronger emotions: that they got what they deserved, that we were rewarded by following the rules.
Example #2: Our drama class puts on a show each year. In the show, some kids sing, some play musical instruments and some dance. Some kids go on stage feeling confident. Others are very nervous. The first kid to perform was a singer who had been in lots of shows.
Commonly used phrases: was very good, was great
Phrases more specific with stronger emotions: sang beautifully, sang on key, was smiling and confident.
The next kid was a dancer, performing for the first time. In his first move he stumbled and got behind the music, and when he tried to catch up, he stumbled again. The audience _______
Commonly used phrases: looked away, was embarrassed,
Phrases more specific with stronger emotions: gasped in horror, called out encouraging words, sighed loudly
But then he seemed to relax, and perform in time with the music, and finished with a dramatic dance move. He took his bows looking __________.
Commonly used words: happy, glad
Words more specific with stronger emotions: overjoyed, thrilled, relieved
The third performance was a group of kids playing songs from the past on their instruments. The music was picked out by our music teacher, who is old. The performers did not play well; the kids in the audience became bored very quickly, which was obvious because (phrases) ___________
Commonly used phrases: they were not listening, they were not paying attention
A phrase with more specific detail: they began talking and fooling around and making faces and laughing.
Example #3: Today, the third grade teachers announced a spelling bee contest to see who the best speller is. The prize for the winner is dinner at his or her favorite restaurant for her family and best friend.
The teachers made up a long list of words from which several would be chosen for the contest, and gave the list to each student who entered the contest. This was done one day before the test, to give the contestants a chance to become familiar with the words, but there were so many words that no contestant could memorize all of them.
On contest day, the contestants met in the auditorium. The judges spoke each word out loud twice, then the contestants wrote the word on their test sheets. This was repeated until all the words had been spoken. The judges then collected the test sheets and reviewed them to find the winner.
One student was so busy concentrating on listening to the words and writing them down that for a while she did not notice that another student sitting near her was looking over her shoulder and copying down her words. But finally she did notice. She felt ______
Commonly used phrases: very angry, very upset
A phrase with more specific detail: very much like a victim, very much like someone who was cheated.
But she decided to get revenge. She purposely misspelled the next two words, and made sure they were in plain view of the cheater. At the end of the test, she waited till the cheater had handed in her test sheet. Then she rewrote the misspelled letters correctly, and wrote a note stating that a cheater had copied her answers and the judges could tell by finding the test sheet with the misspelled two words. Doing this made her feel _________.
Commonly used phrases: very good, very happy
Phrases with more specific, realistic detail: very clever, very satisfied
When the judges finished looking at the scores, she was declared the winner. The cheater came up to the judges table to ask how she did, since she thought her answers were the same as the winner. But the judges had figured out what she did, and accused her of cheating. She _____
Commonly used phrases: became angry, became upset.
Phrases with more specific, realistic detail: loudly denied cheating, accused the judges of unfairly picking a favorite, stalked angrily out of the room.