Have you ever wondered how to teach writing to your students? Students, have you ever wondered how to make your writing come alive, like in the books you read by your favorite author? I am going to give you some tips that have worked for me and that I learned when taking writing classes through the Institute of Children's Literature. I cannot guarantee publication or results, all I can do is guide you. You have to put in the effort and the time and keep writing!
For Teachers: Here is a lesson plan which is based on an activity I did when taking my first writing course. It's all about getting your students to use specific words versus general words. I also have a worksheet you can use, or change it to better suit your students and needs.
General vs. Specific Words
Essential Question: Why do we use specific words versus general words in writing a story?
Objective: Students will be able to name specific words when given a general term.
Core Standard: W.5.2.
Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.
Materials: thesaurus, word sheet
Instruction: Before (spend about 5 minutes on this): Show students a thesaurus. Ask them if they know what it is and why we use one. Pass out copies to students and allow them to peruse them for a few minutes. Give students a word, look it up, and share a few of the synonyms for the word.
Have students close books and give them the word "car." They will write down 2 specific words that describe car. For example: Volkswagon Beetle and Jaguar. Ask your students why they think it is important to be more specific in writing based on this example. If they are not sure, you can say something like: "When I mention a brand of car, isn't is easier to see what I am talking about? Using more specific words in our writing helps our readers better understand what is happeningin the story.
During: (spend about 15-20 minutes on this--alter this based on the needs of your students).
Students will now be given a sheet of 10 general words and they need to come up with 2 specific words for each general word. At first don't have them use the thesaurus. Only do that at the end if someone is stumped.
After: Students will share responses with the class.
Assessment: Teacher observes and collects papers at the end of class. Work with those students who did not understand the assignment. Make sure these papers are put into students' writing folders for future reference.
**Remember, you can alter these words based on your students' needs and educational levels. Choose words that fit in with a lesson you are teaching in Science or History class. Use some words from your weekly story. The main idea is to have fun with this and let kids explore the creative and fun side of writing.
If you have any questions about this lesson, please feel free to contact me at
I would also be interested in hearing how your students did with this activity.