How can I use strong adjectives to really make my writing come alive?
UNIT GUIDING QUESTION: HOW DO AUTHORS USE WORD CHOICE TO IMPACT A READER’S EXPERIENCE?
Lesson: How do strong adjectives affect writing?
LESSON OVERVIEW: In this lesson, students learn how to identify words as adjectives and discover adjectives to use for strong word choice. As a culmination, students write using descriptive adjectives.
“Adjective Test” handout (provided)
“Excerpt from The Araboolies of Liberty Street”: #1, #2, #3 (differentiated versions provided)
“Author’s Excerpts” (provided)
Many Luscious Lollipops: A Book About Adjectives by Ruth Heller (1998, Putnam).
Hairy, Scary, Ordinary: What Is an Adjective? by Brian Cleary (2001, First Avenue Editions)
Schoolhouse Rock video: Unpack Your Adjectives http://www.school-house-rock.com/Adj.html.
vocabulary picture cards for assignment examples (provided)
Focus the lesson. Tell students that the focus for this lesson is on descriptive adjectives. Writing that includes specific adjectives allows a reader to get a clearer picture about what is written. Therefore, this lesson is about using adjectives for strong word usage.
On the white board, write the phrase: “the very _____ cat.” Ask volunteers to fill in the blank with words that make sense in this phrase.
Make a list of these words on butcher paper. Verify with the whole class that all the words make sense grammatically even if they might seem a bit strange in the context.
Ask students to name the part of speech of these words – answer: adjectives. Explain that adjectives are words that modify nouns. In other words, adjectives give us more information about people, places, things (nouns) to help us understand and picture them more.
Show the sheet “Adjectives” on the document camera, distribute a handout for each student, and have them complete it. Ask volunteers to share their adjectives; add them to the class list.
Differentiation: Students can work individually or in pairs on this assignment.
As a class, review the entire list of adjectives and circle those that are particularly descriptive. Make a clean copy of these strong adjectives and post them in the room for students to see and use in their writing. Students might also write a list of these adjectives in their writing journals or elsewhere.
More about adjectives. To augment this lesson, you might read one of the books listed below or play the Schoolhouse Rock video as options.
Read Ruth Heller’ Many Luscious Lollipops: A Book About Adjectives (1998, Putnam).
Read Brian Cleary’s Hairy, Scary, Ordinary: What Is an Adjective? (2001, First Avenue Editions)
Both authors have several books on all parts of speech: nouns, prepositions, etc. As you read, discuss the content as needed.
You might also choose to play the Schoolhouse Rock video entitled Unpack Your Adjectives. The lyrics to the video and ordering information can be found on this link http://www.school-house-rock.com/Adj.html.
Distribute one or all three handouts with excerpts from the picture book The Araboolies of Liberty Street with missing adjectives. Students fill in the blanks with adjectives for each sheet.
Differentiation options: You might have students complete excerpt #1 in groups or use it as a whole class model, excerpt #2 individually or in pairs, and then the final excerpt individually. Or you might differentiate the sheets and have struggling learners complete the heart version, at grade level students the spade version, and advanced students the spade version. For struggling students, provide them with a word bank of selected adjectives to use and offer adult assistance, as needed.
Encourage students to enter the strongest adjectives they can for each sheet. They can use the word wall and their own understanding of the story.
Once they’ve finished, compare students’ words with the author’s actual adjectives from the story using the provided sheet “Author’s Words.” Discuss who had the stronger adjectives – students or the author. Use the guiding question as the basis for discussion: How do strong adjectives affect writing?
Record more descriptive adjectives. Invite students to enter additional descriptive adjectives on the class list that they discovered during the cloze exercise. These could be words students discovered or those the author used. You might reread the story and have students stand up when they hear adjectives. Here is a list the author uses in Araboolies of Liberty Street:
EXTENSION: Encourage students go home and hunt for adjectives in magazines, newspapers, independent reading books. They can ask parents for a list of their favorite adjectives. At school, have them share their most descriptive adjectives and put them on the class-generated list.
Associate adjectives with pictures. Have students choose their top favorite adjectives – anywhere from 3 to 5 – and write them down. Distribute post-it notes and magazines to students. Instruct them to leaf through the magazine and find pictures that are associated with their words. Once they do, have them put a post-it note on the picture and create a comprehensive (telling) sentence that highlights the picture and shows how the adjective(s) is associated with this picture. They can use more than one adjective for each picture, but the expectation is that they find three or five different pictures – one picture to highlight each word. Their sentences should be descriptive enough that it explains the word. See and show the examples for the words serene, affable, nomadic that I have provided in this packet.
Differentiation: Students can work individually or in pairs on this assignment. Assign appropriately challenging words to each students and the right amount of words for this assignment.
Writing using strong adjectives. Assign students the task of writing using strong adjectives. Encourage them to use the class list of adjectives. Choose any of the writing assignments below or choose your own for practice. Ultimately, students incorporate strong adjectives into their formal cumulative writing assignment, such as a short story or response to literature:
Write a description of a character’s personality or a person you know using strong adjectives.
Write a physical description of a character in a book or a person you know using strong adjectives.
Use strong adjectives to write about a historical setting from our current social studies unit.
Write a letter to your teacher about your very best or worst day using descriptive adjectives.
EXTENSION: Ask students to search for strong adjectives from their favorite reading books and add these words to the class list. Or students can go on a scavenger hunt of a reading book (core novel or independent reading book) to find strong adjectives to add to the class list.
Writing assignment with an emphasis on using strong adjectives
Directions: Fill in the missing words in the paragraph below with adjectives. Adjectives modify nouns; they describe them. Here’s a test: If a word can fit into the following phrase, then it’s an adjective –
the very ________ cat
These words are all adjectives. They can fit into the phrase because they sound right. Numbers like forty and three are also adjectives, but don’t fit into the phrase above.
Write some adjectives that you can think of on the lines below:
Excerpt #1 from
The Araboolies of Liberty Street
Once there was a street called Liberty Street, and Liberty Street was lined with _________ houses that were so much alike it was difficult to tell one from another. This was just the way _________ General Pinch and his _________ wife liked it.
♣ Excerpt #2 from
The Araboolies of Liberty Street General and Mrs. Pinch smiled _________ smiles and stood proudly at their windows, keeping a _________ lookout for fresh trouble.
Liberty Street was certainly _________ and _________. But you never heard any music or laughter there, or saw any toys or _________ children. It was a _________ place, and that made the Pinches very _________.
Excerpt #3 from
The Araboolies of Liberty Street
The _________ improvement the Araboolies made to their house was to paint it with _________ and _________ zigzags. They decorated it with _________ _________ lights and hung toys from the trees. Then they drew _________ scenes on the sidewalks and poured sand on the grass and made _________ creatures.
And so, with those orders in mind, the soldiers marched up Liberty Street. But all they saw were brightly _________ houses and _________ people. No house was _________. No one was _________. The soldiers didn’t know what to do.
Once there was a street called Liberty Street, and Liberty Street was lined with white houses that were so much alike it was difficult to tell one from another. This was just the way fat General Pinch and his skinny wife liked it. Excerpt #2
General and Mrs. Pinch smiled nasty smiles and stood proudly at their windows, keeping a sharp lookout for fresh trouble.
Liberty Street was certainly clean and quiet. But you never heard any music or laughter there, or saw any toys or happy children. It was a sad place, and that made the Pinches very glad.
The first improvement the Araboolies made to their house was to paint it with red and white zigzags. They decorated it with flashingcolored lights and hung toys from the trees. Then they drew jungle scenes on the sidewalks and poured sand on the grass and made sand creatures. And so, with those orders in mind, the soldiers marched up Liberty Street. But all they saw were brightly painted houses and colorful people. No house was different. No one was weird. The soldiers didn’t know what to do.