K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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  • Discovering just the right word: Precise word choice helps show the reader a story and not just tell a story. The purpose of this series of lessons is to help students improve their writing style by strengthening word choice at the word and sentence level by adding adverbs, precise verbs, and specific nouns.
  • Narrative writing: Using exact words: The learner will recognize exact verbs in literature and then use more exact verbs when writing a narrative.
  • Action chains: Students learn to elaborate on an event in a narrative by expanding their sentences into action chains. Expanding single actions into an action chain provides the reader with a more detailed picture of an event in a narrative.

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Learning outcomes

By introducing and explaining how to use a thesaurus, students will be encouraged to expand their writing skills using synonyms. Use of synonyms will also make writing samples more exciting. Instead of writing the word run, students might substitute jog, trot, dash, race, or sprint.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

2 days

Materials/resources

Technology resources

Computers with both word processing software and internet access

Pre-activities

Students will need to bring a writing sample to the Media Center and/or Computer Lab for this lesson. This writing sample can be a complete story the students are working on, or it could be a portion of the story, such as a beginning paragraph.

Activities

Library Media Center Activities

  1. Explanation of thesaurus and synonyms will be given. Each student will be given a Scholastic Children’s Thesuarus.
  2. Students will highlight words in their story that are “weak” or “boring”. For example: He walked down the busy street.
  3. Students will use a print thesaurus to look up all of the words that they highlighted.
  4. Students will edit their stories using the more descriptive words they found in the thesaurus. For example: He hiked down the busy street. He marched down the busy street.

Computer Lab Activities

  1. Explanation of thesaurus and synonyms will be given. Students will be shown how to use the tool bar of the word processing system to access the thesaurus and/or how to access an online thesaurus program.
  2. Students will highlight words in their story that are “weak” or “boring”. For example: He walked down the busy street.
  3. Students will use the word processing Thesaurus and/or online thesaurus program to look up all of the words that they highlighted.
  4. Students will edit their stories using the more descriptive words they found in the Thesaurus. For example: He hiked down the busy street. He marched down the busy street.

Assessment

  • Informal Assessment: Student’s editing will be monitored and reviewed. If words from their original stories are changed appropriately, then accomplishment will be noted. Rubric: xls | rtf
  • Ongoing assessment also follows this activity. The classroom teacher will watch for use of synonyms and strong words as future student writing assignments are reviewed.

Supplemental information

Comments

This was a collaborative unit created by the school Media Coordinator, Technology Specialist and Two Fourth Grade Teachers.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • Language

        • Grade 3
          • 3.L.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships and nuances in word meanings. 3.L.5.1 Distinguish the literal and nonliteral meanings of words and phrases in context (e.g., take steps). 3.L.5.2 Identify real-life connections between...
        • Grade 4
          • 4.L.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings. 4.L.5.1 Explain the meaning of simple similes and metaphors (e.g., as pretty as a picture) in context. 4.L.5.2 Recognize and explain the meaning of common...
      • Writing

        • Grade 3
          • 3.W.5 With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, and editing.

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Arts (2004)

Grade 3

  • Goal 4: The learner will apply strategies and skills to create oral, written, and visual texts.
    • Objective 4.08: Focus reflection and revision (with assistance) on target elements by:
      • clarifying ideas.
      • adding descriptive words and phrases.
      • sequencing events and ideas.
      • combining short, related sentences.
      • strengthening word choice.