Does your child struggle with writing interesting stories, poems and reports for school? How can writing be improved to capture and hold the attention of readers? One quick fix for this is to add “rich vocabulary” in the form of descriptive adjectives (describe nouns), specific verbs (action words) and adverbs which end in “-ly” (describe verbs).
Consider the following paragraph:
“Last Sunday we went to Grandma’s house for lunch. Auntie Sarah, Uncle Sam and Jayden were there. We all had hugs. The kids played games in the yard. It was fun. Uncle Sam and Dad cooked steak for the adults and sausages for the kids. It was yummy. After lunch, Uncle Sam and Dad played cricket with us kids. It was fun. Mum and Auntie Sarah helped Grandma clean up. Then we went home.”
Sound familiar? How can these sentences be made more exciting? Let’s see where we can add descriptive adjectives to add a little more detail.
Is Grandma’s house a “rambling, old house”, a “welcoming house” or a “squeaky-clean house”? Was lunch a “family get-together” lunch, a “barbecue” lunch or a “celebratory” lunch. What games were played in the yard and where? Examples are “chasing games and turned cartwheels on the back lawn” or “hide-and-seek around the house and shed” or “handball on the concrete driveway”.
Next let’s think about specific verbs.
Instead of “went” we could have “drove”, “journeyed” (if it was a long way) or “travelled” or even “visited” instead of “went to”. The words “were there” could be replaced by “awaited us” or “greeted us” or “welcomed us”. “It was fun” is not very convincing, “We enjoyed ourselves immensely” uses a stronger verb (enjoy) and “immensely” is an “-ly” adverb. “Cooked” could be replaced by “grilled” or “barbecued”. Instead of “It was yummy”, we could use sensory words such as “juicy and delicious”.
Finally we could add some “-ly” adverbs such as “played games co-operatively“ or “excitedly”, “played cricket energetically” or “skilfully”, “clean up immediately” or “cheerfully” and “went home obediently”, gratefully” or “sadly”. Instead of “We all had hugs” we could write “We all hugged one another affectionately”.
The new version for the paragraph might read as follows:
“Last Sunday we drove to Grandma’s welcoming house for a family get-together lunch. Grandma, Auntie Sarah, Uncle Sam and Jayden awaited us. We all hugged one another affectionately. Excitedly the kids played chasing games and turned cartwheels on the back lawn. We enjoyed ourselves immensely. Uncle Sam and Dad barbecued steak for the adults and sausages for the kids. The meat was deliciously tender and juicy. After lunch, Uncle Sam and Dad skilfully played cricket with us kids, while Mum and Auntie Sarah cheerfully helped Grandma clean up. Then, sadly but gratefully, we returned home.”
I’m sure you will agree that the second paragraph with the added “rich vocabulary” is far more likely to attract and retain the reader’s attention than the first one. Why not help your student to make lists of words to replace “go/went”, “get/got”, “said”, “walked”, “nice” and any other over-used, non-specific words. Encourage them to ask “Who? What? Where? When? How?” when they are writing and to look for descriptive adjectives, specific verbs and “-ly” adverbs.