Thursday, July 26, 2012

Word Choice: Old vs. Ancient

This week our school is hosting a "Summer Enrichment Camp" that gives students the option of attending 5 shortened school days where they can get a head start into their new grade level. It's been nice to meet some of our brand new fourth graders, see my coworkers again, and start working on my room. I'm loving the new door sign I ordered from Fanciful Felt by Bourdiers on Etsy! I hardly ever shop online, but this was a must-have!


Since I knew I'd only have one week with my little group before school officially starts, I wanted to work on something that would get them excited about fourth grade writing. So, I decided to dedicate the whole week to word choice! We all know that kids' vocabularies grow as they get older, but how can we teach them to remember to use these wonderful words when they put pencil to paper? Giving students a list of vivid synonyms (we call them "razzle dazzle" words!) to replace worn out/overused words is easy for them and us, but I've found that a lot of my students tend to get "word drunk" once they rely too much on whipping out that word list every time they write. I'll emphasize how important it is for them to throw away worn out words and replace them with "razzle dazzle" words from their word list, and then I'll read sentences like this:

"I once helped an ancient lady put her groceries in the car."

Poor woman... I'd need help with my groceries, too, if I was several centuries old. "Elderly" would have been much more appropriate, but how was my student to learn this from a word list? We have to teach our budding writers that learning new words comes with time and if you write with "razzle dazzle" words that are completely unfamiliar to you, even if it "sounds cool," your writing will be formulaic, wordy, and maybe just downright offensive! I put together a word list that students can build on their own and update throughout the year as they learn new "razzle dazzle" words through reading, conversations, teachers, etc. They will be able to see different shades of meaning in synonyms and refer only to the "razzle dazzle" words that they're familiar with. Hopefully I won't be reading about anymore ancient ladies!


You might be wondering why I left out the word "said." I'm saving the "Said is Dead" theme for later on in the year when we work on adding more dialogue to our stories. "My Razzle Dazzle Words" pairs very nicely with Crickwing by Janell Cannon. She's also the author of one of my childhood favorites, Stellaluna.


This is now my #1 favorite mentor text for teaching word choice. If you can get past the fact that it's about a cockroach that plays with his food (gross), you'll find that it's jampacked with vivid verbs and adjectives like "scrambled," "chortled," "eensy," "brilliant," "stammered," "gasped," "howled," "insisted"... and the list goes on.

Thank you to Mrs. T from Teaching Mrs. T for nominating me for the "One Lovely Blog" Award! Most blogs I follow have this award and I just did a round of 20 nominations for other awards, so I want to wait a bit on nominating 15 more for this one. I hope you can forgive me! ; )

16 comments:

  1. I love this idea of the razzle dazzle words! Thank you for the freebie:) I nominated you for a blog award because I didn't see the lovely blog award when I was searching last night! Oh well, you are still nominated by yet another blogger:)
    ~Holly
    Fourth Grade Flipper

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  2. You have so many great ideas! I am your newest follower and a fellow 4th grade teacher! I found you one Teaching Blog Addict. Come check out my blog:
    Fancy Free in Fourth

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    1. Thanks, Layla! I started following your blog, too. I love you back to school owl! How cute!

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  3. I am your newest follower and I love the Razzle Dazzle words. Thanks for the freebie, too! I can see this getting used a lot in my classroom!

    Dee
    Mrs. B's Nook

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  4. I love your door sign! I need to get one for my door!

    Your newest follower,
    Stephany
    primarypossibilities.blogspot.com

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    1. Thanks! I'm very happy with it. She has a variety of cute signs for teachers: http://www.etsy.com/shop/bourdiers

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  5. That pencil name sign you ordered is adorable - great investment! Thanks for commenting on my blog - I just added you to my 4th grade blog roll! :)
    Antonia @ forkin4th

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  6. I love the Razzle Dazzle words, what a great idea. Thank you for posting that. I also nominated you for a blogging award, come on over to my blog to get it. Have a good week!

    Mrs. W
    http://wonderingsofwoodbury.blogspot.com/

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    1. Awesome! I just got the Versatile Blogger award, but thank you for the recognition! ;)

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  7. Love your "Razzle Dazzle Words", and I am enjoying your blog. I too teach 4th grade writing and love using mentor text. I am a new member to your blog, and I just grabbed your button to put on my blog as a "blog I love." Come check it out!

    : Teaching Fourth

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    1. Thanks, Kelly! I started following your blog, too!

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  8. Just found your blog through Pinterest! Great Job. I just became a new follower.

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    1. Thanks! I'm glad to know it's making its way around Pinterest. :)

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