Students with expressive language difficulties and reduced vocabulary often use the same words over and over again in speaking and writing. Here’s an activity to help students develop an awareness of using “boring words” and build important vocabulary skills.
I start with providing an example of a paragraph like the one below:
My question to students is: What’s the matter with this paragraph? Typically students focus on grammar, especially punctuation and capital letters and feel the paragraph is perfect! If this is the case, prompt students to realize that the word “dog” is used 8 times! I had my students highlight the word and count how many times it appeared.
Certainly we can come up with some different words!
To help generate similar words, first brainstorm semantic features. Here are some examples:
loyal, friend, four-legs, tail that wags
Next, develop synonym knowledge by coming up with similar words:
My students had an A-HA moment when they realized “canine” is abbreviated K-9 and can be seen on police cars that have dogs!
We they undertake the task of replacing all those “dog” words with different words. I came up with a “Word Choice Circle” to help students remember to vary their word choices. I teach students to go around the circle and use the original noun, synonyms and an acceptable pronoun. We also used terms like “furry friend” and “4-legged canine” by adding adjectives! You can download a copy of the “Word Choice Circle” here.
Here’s a look at our updated paragraph with a variety of word choices!
I would love to know if you try this strategy! If you have any other ideas, please share below!