Identify Strong Word Choice with the Purple Highlighter

Posted on April 18, 2017

Identify Strong Word Choice with the Purple Highlighter

Providing students regular feedback on their word choice is necessary. If we don't communicate that we noticed their attempts at strong word choice, why would they continue to strive for it. Precise word choice is much more work (e.g., snatch) than just settling for a general word that will do (e.g., get). However, all this complimenting on their papers takes time. And for the busy teacher with many papers to grade, this time is precious.

Smekens Education Got Purple Words? Purple Highlighters

That's why Kristina Smekens initiated her Purple Words strategy. Rather than circling strong words, making comments about them in the margins, and adding stickers to student papers, you could just stroke them with a purple highlighter. Tell students that every time they have a word or phrase highlighted in purple, you are telling them that they have used strong word choice. Students begin counting up and keeping track of how many purple words they had in each writing. They begin comparing with their peers and challenging each other to see who will have more in the next writing.

All this light-hearted fun has a greater significance. That is, students are thinking about their word choice more intentionally in their first drafts! They are wanting the strokes of purple on their papers. Students are upping the ante on their vocabularies, and the teacher doesn't have to do anything but read their writing and stroke words that are powerful. Gotta' love that! Fast and efficient with a powerful effect!

So, does it have to be a purple highlighter? Can't you just use any highlighter color? No! It MUST be purple. It's a rare color to find. Yellow, pink, green, orange, and blue highlighters are common. You don't want a common core for rare word choice. You want something extra special to acknowledge the precision and specificity they used. Rare word choice gets the strokes of the rare purple highlighter!

Article originally posted April 9, 2010.