At the beginning of the year, it never fails that the kids have lost their juicy language over the summer. Boring writing is coming in hot during the beginning. The first day comes and you're doing those fun "Write about your Summer" activities and boom there it is!
I like summer.
I went swimming.
It was fun.
Oh boy. Here are a few strategies that I've used that have been extremely helpful.
Strategy #1: The Hanging Thesaurus
Last year I created a Hanging Thesaurus. I printed these words out, laminated them, and taped them to garden wire. (I like the twisty, swirly look). My best teacher-friend in Chicago printed hers on bright paper and used jumprings to connect the words. You could also use a pocket chart!
It was a big help to have the synonyms visually displayed throughout the classroomWhenever I saw "It was nice" or "I liked the food" I would gently nudge my students to check out the Hanging Thesaurus to see if there was a synonym for the overused word. This was especially helpful for students who were afraid to take risks with using words that were bigger and maybe they didn't know how to spell. It was an easy transition for editing for them to just casually walk around the room and check out some words they could replace. I had two parents ask if they could have a copy of the Hanging Thesaurus so they could use it at home because their kids loved it so much.
It helped my students learn new words and not feel intimidated by using them in their writing. I highly recommend using this or something similar to give your kids immediate access to more expressive language!
P.S. The Printable Hanging Thesaurus is on SALE now in my TPT store!
Strategy #2: Siesta vs. Fiesta Words Mini-Lesson
This idea came from the SMILE Writing program. Of course, I prefer Lucy Calkins' Writing Workshop to SMILE, but I did find this lesson very engaging and useful.
I gave examples of Siesta Words (boring, over used words) and we brainstormed some Siesta words together (run, said, like, etc.)
I gave some examples of Fiesta Words (exciting and juicy words) and we brainstormed some of these together (ambled- yes, one of my gifted first graders thought of ambled-, exclaimed, enjoy, etc.)
I then passed out maracas. We practiced shaking the maracas like it was a fiesta when we heard fiesta words. Then we practiced faking sleep with a siesta word.
Next, I instructed them that while I read Skippyjon Jones in the Doghouse and I stopped and repeated a word, they were to either shake their maracas or fake sleep depending whether it was Fiesta or Siesta. It was a great lesson and I was able to tell easily if they were getting it (when its dead silent from faking sleep and I heard a maraca, I knew they hadn't quite gotten it yet!)
P.S. If you haven't read Skippyjon Jones books, do it!
Strategy #3: Thesaurus in the Writing Center:
I kept a few copies of Chilldren's Thesauruses in the Writing Center and did a Mini-Lesson on how to use them. There is also a great Brainpop video that helps too!