Consider teaching students that strong word choice is like selecting just the right shade of a word. Compare general words to 8-box crayon words and more specific words to 24- or 64-box crayon words. We want writers to stop using blue when they know midnight, turquoise, and baby blue.

8-crayon box to identify synonyms for basic color words24-crayon box to identify synonyms for basic color words64-crayon box to identify synonyms for basic color words

To help foster this idea, Wilbur Wright Elementary teacher Clara Green (New Castle, IN) created a class color thesaurus for her writers. She banished the basic colors from their writers’ vocabulary. No longer could students refer to blue skies, or green grass, or red lipstick. She had them identifying precisely the color they wanted by using her crayon thesaurus.

Once students understand the notion of synonyms, advance beyond color words and nudge them to think of more precise adjectives, nouns, and verbs.

Better Word Thesaurus to identify synonymsBetter Word Thesaurus to identify synonyms templates

Article originally posted September 25, 2009.

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