Thursday, November 5, 2009

Building a Solid Foundation for Good Writing

     Writers build excellent compositions with good paragraphs. They form the paragraphs with good sentences, and build the sentences with good word choice.
     So it makes sense to build your students foundation with a study of good words. But what makes one word better than another? It’s more than just choosing a word from a thesaurus.

The most important word in a sentence is the verb. Strong, vivid verbs bring life to a sentence. A single vivid verb can elicit a visual picture in the mind. Here’s a few examples as we change only the verb:

• The lady tiptoed across the room.

• The lady pranced across the room.

• The lady staggered across the room.

     Notice how each specific verb gives a different picture in the mind. This one great secret can transform your student’s sentences.

     We used to play a racing game with verbs. I’d set a timer for one or two minutes and give my kids a generic verb like talk. They’d race to see who could come up with the most vivid verbs for talk: whisper, lisp, scream, mumble, etc. I always had a small prize for the winner. Here’s a few more verbs to use: drink, walk, look, sit, get, take, hold.

     Nouns deserve your attention next. Play the same game with a generic noun such as tree. They’ll write: oak, pine, palm, mesquite, etc. Here’s some more nouns to try: flower, vehicle, fish, bird, dish.

     Have these races often. Once they’ve latched on to the idea, remind them that these words are the ones you want them to use. Don’t allow them to tell you that Grandma’s yard has flowers. No picture forms with such generic words. Grandma’s yard has daffodils. Better still: A gentle breeze sways the daffodils in Grandma’s yard. Now we’ve used a strong verb and a specific noun for a better sentence.

     Remember, verbs and nouns form the foundation of excellent sentences.

     Do you have other word games you play with your children? Please share them with us!

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