Tuesday, January 27, 2009

SmallWorld's WordSmithery: Powerful Words (Assignment 3)

Welcome back to SmallWorld's WordSmithery, where "creative writing" and "boring" go their separate ways. If you are just joining in, please go back and read Assignment #1: About and Journals and Assignment #2: Introduction and Good Words before continuing; otherwise, you'll be missing out on, well, the beginning. And you know what Julie Andrews/Maria had to say about that. (Hint: "Let's start at the very beginning...")

Anyway, this week we are going to talk more about the power of good words. Remember that, as always, this lesson is loosely scripted as a means to generate discussion and response with your student(s). I've also included the lesson and assignments on a file, linked at the bottom. I try to put the "speaking" parts in regular type and the answers in italics. And remember: parents/teacher: you should be doing the assignments, too!


Last week we talked about WORDS being the very most important part of writing. We collected lots of really good words. Remember when we practiced nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs?

A. This week we are going to talk about SYNONYMS and ADJECTIVES.
1. What is a synonym? Why are synonyms important? (Allow for answers: you can replace a boring word with an interesting one).
2. If you can't think of a synonym, where is a good place to look? (Allow for answer. Hopefully they'll come up with a thesaurus. Show thesaurus and explain how to use it. Ideally you should have one for each child.)
B. What is an adjective again? (Allow for answer: A word that describes a noun or a pronoun.)
1. Write on board/paper: Clean towel. Dirty towel. Smelly towel.
2. Let's think about synonyms for these words. (Write down words they come up with.) Now let's look in our thesaurus to find even more words. (Write on board)
* They love this exercise. You might want to do this with a couple more adjectives.

II. Poetry Reading
* Let's read a poem with lots of good synonyms: "Blood Curdling Story" by Shel Silverstein
Blood-Curdling Story

That story is creepy,
It's waily, it's weepy,
It's screechy and screamy
Right up to the end.
It's spooky, it's crawly,
It's grizzly, it's gory,
It's the awfulest story
(Please tell it again.)

1. Note 1: If you haven't been sharing your journal entries throughout the week, this is the time to do it! In the home setting, we share ours as soon as we write them; however, when I teach this class, we read the entries during class—IF the student wishes to.)
2. If you lost last week's journal assignment, please visit the link above to Assignment 2. B. Remember, sharing is never about criticizing or even offering suggestions. Sharing journals is just about listening, encouraging, and pointing out something good. ("I love that you chose the word 'hairy' to describe your father!")

Let's look at this sentence:


That's not a very exciting sentence, is it? It doesn't tell us anything except that some man went to a big city. Let's change this sentence into one that gives us more information.
1. We'll start with the word "man."
a. What words could we use in place of "man"? Who is this man?? What kind of man was he? Is he a police officer? Teacher? Professor? Plumber? Businessman? Who is this man? (Allow for answers. Agree on the type of man this is. Cross out or erase "man" and replace with you new noun.)
b. What kind of [type of man] is he? Find some adjectives to describe him. You might look at your journal entries to see how you described your fathers. (Allow for answers. Agree and rewrite, for example, "An hairy professor")
2. Let's move to the word "city."
* Describe the city. You can name a big city (Chicago) or just give better description (the big, dirty city)
3. Now let's take the verb "went" and make it into a stronger verb. How did the hairy professor get to the Chicago? Did he hitchhike? fly? drive a 1960s Volkswagon bus? (Decide and replace word.
4. Here is our final sentence ____________ (write on board, for example, The hairy professor hitchhiked from Santa Barbara to Chicago.) Do you see how we transformed a sentence that told us almost nothing to one that gives personality to the man and tells much more about him?

B. More sentence stretching
(Practice changing simple sentences into ones with lots of detail. You can either do this together on your board/butcher paper, or you can have students do these individually. In a class, I divide kids up into groups of 2-3 and have them work on sentences together.)
1. We are going to take a simple sentence and work together to change this sentence into a better one.We MUST change the pronoun and the verb.
Here is an example:
The original sentence is: She ate dinner.

By replacing and adding words, this becomes: A hungry ballerina (that's the she) gobbled (that's the ate) her sloppy green soup (that's the dinner.)

2. Simple sentences:
* It fell down.
* He went home.
* They drink tea.
* She read a book.
* We ran away.

That's all for this week! Be sure to look below for weekly journal assignments and for the links to the printable files.

Journal Writings: Food Week

Use any kind of words you like: nouns, verbs, adjectives. Don't forget to make them strong!

Day 1
Pick 3 foods. For each one, write a sentence that describes the food in such a way that makes it sound awful.
[For example: Food=Potato chips:
The dripping grease of the chips sat in my stomach like a glob of playdough.]

Day 2
Write a mouth-watering description of your favorite dessert.
[For example, Chocolate Layer Cake has Moist but fluffy layers joined together with thick, rich icing.

Day 3
Write the menu for your ideal meal. Use at least one adjective for each food.
[For example: Tossed salad with ranch dressing; Stuffed baked potato with sour cream on the side; Hot garlic bread; Baked chicken with mushroom sauce; Steamed, buttered asparagus; Chocolate cheesecake; Frothy hot chocolate]

Day 4
Write a recipe for crocodile pie.


Hope you enjoy writing with your kiddos this week! If you have questions, suggestions, or things that just didn't work for you, please let me know. I value your input! And if you're using the WordSmithery, please share my link on your blog page and let your friends know!

Click here for Assignment #1: About and Journals
Click here for Assignment #2: Introduction to Creative Writing, Featuring Good Words
(You are currently on Assignment #3)
Click here for Assignment #4: Similes


  1. Thus far Corbin is really enjoying this. Thank you so much! For the first time EVER he didn't complain about having to write something.

  2. I'm book marking your WordSmithery Posts. I'm unable to start right now, but hopefully soon.

    Good stuff as always. Thanks.

  3. Thank you again for doing this. My kids are enjoying it, and even my son who normally "can't think of anything to say" is having fun. :-)

  4. Alex's recipe for Crocodile Pie

    1 cup of flour
    all of a crocodiles blood
    all of the crocodiles skin
    1 cup water
    1 teaspoon sugar
    1 gallon milk

    Mix all the dry ingredients together and stir until smooth.
    Add milk and water and stir for 1 hour (at most) or until it all blends nicely.
    Add blood and bake at 400* for 3 hours.

    Serves 10

  5. Hi Sarah,
    I am a devoted reader of your blog and just started using your word smithery lessons this week. My kids don't love writing, but so far have been happy to dig into the creative process with your lessons and journal ideas. I have also ordered lots of writing books from our library based on your recommendations. I am not much of a commenter usually, but I love this stuff.

  6. I have been looking everywhere for tips to teach creative writing to my girl. The assignments are just what I needed. Thank you so much for sharing!

  7. For the first time *ever* I caught my 8 year old enjoying himself during a writing lesson! Thank you!

  8. It's me again. I have to share my first experience with one of your wordsmithery lessons. Thank you thank you thank you!!


  9. Thank you, thank you, thank you Sarah!!! Your Wordsmithery Lessons are awesome! I'm thrilled that I found your blog. My 7 and 9 year old love their newly decorated journals and for once look forward to writing , and I look forward to teaching writing! Hurray!


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