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Writing -- With a Catch!


Arts & Humanities
--Language Arts



Brief Description

This writing lesson with a catch will challenge students to write better.


Students will

  • discuss how some words can be overused in their writing.
  • consider alternatives to the typical vocabulary they might use as they write about familiar topics.
  • evaluate how "outlawed" words impact/affect their writing.


writing, vocabulary, outlawed words, synonyms

Materials Needed

  • pencil and paper
  • thesaurus (optional)

Lesson Plan

As students write, they often rely on "standard" vocabulary to express their thoughts. This writing activity will challenge students to eliminate in their writing some of those standard words in favor of more interesting words.

Write on a board or chart the title "I Love Ice Cream."
Ask students What if I asked you to write a paragraph in which you tell why you love ice cream? What are some of the ideas that you might include in your writing? Write students responses on a board or chart. Your students might suggest ideas such as

  • It is so cool and refreshing.
  • My favorite flavor is chocolate.
  • I love to lick it off the cone.
  • It is creamy and delicious.
  • It tastes so sweet.
  • It melts quickly on a hot day.

Ask students if they would have an easy time writing a paragraph on that topic? They will likely respond that it would be an easy topic about which to write.

Then ask them if the writing task would be more difficult if you told them they could not use these words in their writing?

  • cream or creamy
  • cool or cold
  • flavor
  • lick
  • taste

Students first reactions might be Are you crazy? but as they give the question more thought they might suggest ideas such as:

  • There are other words that mean the same as some of those words [synonyms] that could be used.
  • It will be more difficult to write but the writing might be more interesting if we eliminate those "typical" words.

Now that your discussion has set the stage, tell students that you are going to ask them to choose a headline and write a paragraph to go with it. Reveal your list of writing topics for the day.

  • Bugs Are Interesting
  • I Love Spaghetti!
  • My Best Birthday
  • Skyscrapers Amaze Me!
  • I'd Like to Live on a Farm
  • If I Had $1,000,000

Then tell them there is a catch!
Reveal the list of words that they cannot use as they write on their chosen topic.

  • Bugs Are Interesting -- bugs, creepy, crawl, sound, buzz
  • I Love Spaghetti! -- spaghetti, pasta, sauce, Italian, dinner
  • My Best Birthday -- birthday, present, cake, gift, party
  • Skyscrapers Amaze Me! -- skyscraper, tall, building, city, high
  • I'd Like to Live on a Farm -- farm, cow, crop, field, tractor
  • If I Had $1,000,000 -- dollars, money, bank, spend, new
Note: The "outlawed" words can be used in the title, but not in the text. If you teach young students, you might make the task a bit easier by not including the first word in each list as an outlawed word.

After the Lesson
See the Assessment section below.


Talk with students about todays writing assignment. What was it like to write without using those "outlawed" words? Did it make their writing more difficult or challenging? Did it make their writing better or more interesting to read?

Then you might have them consider their thoughts and write their thoughts about the lesson in their journals.

Lesson Plan Source

Submitted By

Gary Hopkins

National Standards

NL-ENG.K-12.4 Communication Skills
NL-ENG.K-12.5 Communication Strategies
NL-ENG.K-12.6 Applying Knowledge
NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

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