Learning Center


Celebrate strong word choice

march 25, 2009

Celebrate strong word choice

All student writers, regardless of age, appreciate when a teacher celebrates their strong word choice. Complimenting writers on their word choice provides trait-based reinforcement that can carry over into other writing. To maximize time in assessment, Kristina Smekens recommends stroking bullseye word choice with a purple pen.

Here are some other ways 6-Traits teachers are encouraging their students to pick just the right word when they’re writing.

Morning Check-In Board - Today I feel...

Weave strong word choice into morning routines

Bluffton-Harrison Elementary second grade teacher Susan Ealing and Title I/language arts teacher Nancy Johnson targeted word choice and also tied it to voice! The teachers realized students were still overusing words, although it wasn’t in their writing.

Part of the morning routine has been for the students to place their name sticks into pockets that describe how they feel that day. The “excited” pocket had been used so much that the paper pocket was falling apart. So the teachers closed it for repairs for the rest of the year. This forced students to choose another word to describe how they felt.

Update Feeling Words - To add to feeling word vocabulary

The following week a new list of feeling words was posted (see photo). Students could elect to write their names on sticky notes and place them by one of the new word choices. Words were selected that were positive and good goal behaviors for the day. The words were discussed so students understood their meanings. Additional words were again added the next week because the new procedure was so popular with the students.

Create a visual display of “Most Valuable” vocabulary

Kimberly Moisan encourages her Minooka Intermediate students (Minooka, IL) to strive for better word choice. She has taken a section of the classroom wall and titled it “Most Valuable Vocabulary.” When she hears students utilize strong word choice, she celebrates their growing vocabulary by inviting them to add their words to her wall.

On a note card, the student writes the new word, a simple definition, and his own name. With the words posted on the wall, students constantly see them and frequently utilize them within their own speaking and writing. But in the students’ minds, the reward of having their own names next to each of their own words is the real prize. They’ve upped the ante in their own speaking and writing just to get their words chosen for Mrs. Mosian’s “Most Valuable” vocabulary wall.

Using Kristina Smekens’ purple highlighter technique to celebrate great word choice, Kim has her students write their words, definitions, and names on the notecards with a purple marker.

Strive for salsa words versus rice-cake words

6-Traits’ guru Ruth Culham encourages students to use spicy salsa words, rather than bland and boring rice-cake words. Liking that analogy and wanting to provide her students a visual reminder to use vivid word choice, fifth grade teacher Barb Mahnesmith posts photographs within her classroom at Prairie Trace Elementary School (Carmel, IN).

Classroom Photo - Salsa words versus rice-cake words
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CompCON 2024
Encourage spelling risk-takers with a bulletin board


Encourage spelling risk-takers with a bulletin board

Identify strong word choice with the purple highlighter


Identify strong word choice with the Purple Highlighter

Push students beyond obvious descriptions


Push students beyond obvious descriptions