How To Teach Adjectives!How To Teach Adjectives!

Here are three key areas to explore when you are teaching adjectives. Cover them all and your students won't just know what adjectives are, they'll be excited about using them.

The key areas are not grade specific and can be applied whether you are teaching adjectives to third graders or sixth graders (yes first graders too ... but keep it simple).

1) Adjectives Are Important

Without adjectives writing is monotone. The troll under the bridge tells us very little. Compare it with the much more informative the disgruntled mountain troll sat under the ancient fairy bridge. Writers use adjectives to describe the characters, settings and props of a narrative. Readers use them to conjure up images in their mind and create the writer's world.

To explore this idea, ask your students to remove the adjectives from a paragraph and read it out loud. This works especially well if the paragraph is from a book the class is reading or a student's favorite story.

2) Adjectives Have Different Meanings

Adjectives that mean essentially the same thing often have important subtle differences. Annoyed, cross, ill-tempered, bitter, offended, furious, fuming and enraged all mean angry but each word has its own more specific meaning.

Annoyed implies a mild fleeting anger as in - The annoyed waitress picked up the plate that she dropped.

Fuming conveys an extreme anger that is potentially explosive as in - The fuming principal stormed away.

Enraged can convey an extreme anger that is being physically expressed as in - The enraged crowd stormed the barricade.

Let your students explore the nuances of adjectives. Focus on a general idea (happy, sad, lazy, hard-working) and use a thesaurus to collect all the words that can be used for it. Do this as a whole class first and then ask small groups of students to go off and research their own word. Dictionaries are handy if they want to look up the meaning.

When the groups are done representatives from each group could explain the meanings of some of the words or act them out. If there is time, the groups can create posters that show all the words collected. These make handy writing group resources.

3) Collect Adjectives

Once your students understand that adjectives are important and that each one has its own specific meaning they are ready to start collecting them.

Students can collect adjectives specific to a subject or theme. Give them some blood-red paper and they could start collecting adjectives that a pirate might need when describing his blood-thirsty adventures. Give them blue paper for a collection of adjectives that are useful for describing space travel or deep sea diving. Give them any pastel coloured paper and add glitter for a fairy tale collection.

Students can also create their own favorite adjectives list. Let them create a colorful heading and border in a workbook which will mark the list as important and make it easy to find. Each day or week ask them to write down their favorite word for "tired" or (whatever word you decide). Change it each time. If you don't have enough thesauri on hand you may have to write out a selection on the board.

Challenge the whole class to collect 200 or 500 adjectives by the end of the term. A notice board covered in a bright colored paper is perfect. Put up a heading like, "500 Adjectives Challenge" or "Adjectives are Awesome! Use them!". Place different colored strips of paper nearby that the students can use to write on and then glue to the notice board. It is simpler to count the strips of paper before you start. They look beautiful when they are glued on randomly but are difficult to count.
by Sherry Goodrich
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