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Overused Writing Words

Subjects: Arts & Humanities: Language Arts, Literature
Grades: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, Advanced

Brief Description

Students participate in a funeral for the words they overuse in their writing!



  • recognize words that are overused in their writing.
  • understand that they can replace many overused words with more interesting words.
  • develop a list of alternate words for those overused words.
  • make an effort to avoid overused words in their writing.


word wall, writing, vocabulary, meaning, dictionary, thesaurus

Materials Needed


  • kraft paper
  • scissors
  • markers

Lesson Plan


  • Cut from kraft paper the shape of a grave headstone. At the top of the headstone, print R.I.P. in large letters. Display the headstone on a classroom bulletin board. Explain to students that this is the Dead Word Wall. Dead words are words -- such as thing, stuff, cool, good, nice, awesome -- that students use again and again in their writing even though other words would do a better job of conveying meaning. (The Dead Word list will vary by grade level.)
  • Establish a rule for use of words from the Dead Word Wall; for example, a student who uses a Dead Word in his or her writing will face an appropriate penalty -- perhaps minus 1 point from the grade on the paper that includes the word.
  • Each time an overused word appears in student writing, invite students to join in a brief mock funeral. They might, for example, hum the funeral march as the new word is posted to the list.

Extension activity 1: Select a paragraph from a book that students are reading. Challenge students to replace as many of the words in that paragraph as possible with words from the Dead Word Wall. The resulting paragraphs will provide a spoof of the actual writing some students pass in and help drive home the point that such words can make writing seem uninteresting, even ridiculous!

Extension activity 2: Invite students to work in groups to create a list of alternate words that might be used in place of each word on the Dead Word Wall. Keep a file of index cards (one card for each dead word) as a thesaurus-like resource for students.


Students will reduce their use of words from the Dead Word Wall in their writing.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

Submitted By

Gary Hopkins

National Standards


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