Unpack Your Adjectives - Books and Activities to Teach Students to Add Describing Words

teaching students to use adjectives in their writing

Last year my students' writing was a little, well, ummm.....boring. We were stuck in a rut of writing the fact, just the facts. Honestly, they stuck to the basics like nobodies business. So we spent quiet a bit of time working on adjectives and how to use them in our writing to help create a picture in the reader's mind.

First we started with this video (cause I LOVE Schoolhouse Rocks and am old enough to have watched in on Saturday mornings!!!)

So......we ran with the concept of "unpacking" adjectives and used a vacation theme for our learning and writing : )

Here are some books we used to focus on both adjectives and vacations.....

adjective picture books

How I Spent My Summer Vacation shows what can be accomplished with a vivid imagination.

A Moment in Time is all about simple summer activities - so that even students that have not been on a big summer vacation can relate.

Roller Coaster shows how to describe one specific event from a special day.

Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street is another great book for those students who have not been on a trip or think they have nothing to write about.

Here are some books if you want to teach about adjectives without the vacation theme.....

picture books for teaching adjectives

When teaching my students about adjectives - of course we watched the video - a couple of times. We used the video to help us come up with a definition of an adjective and start our class list.

Next we looked at our mentor texts to see how these authors used adjectives to help us, the readers, create a picture in  our mind. We picked out words and sentences that we thought really worked.

Then it was time for us to start working on using adjectives. To get started I created some picture prompts.

I displayed the picture prompt and first we would talk about the things we could see - what nouns are in the picture. I would take 3-4 of the nouns we picked and then we would brainstorm like crazy all of the words we could think of to describe the noun. Students placed their words right on the picture using sticky notes.

I printed off the pictures and added them to a suitcase (construction paper!!) with our brainstormed word list. Boom - we had class created lists of words that we could use when writing.

After working as a class to describe our vacation picture prompts and some independent practice it was time to look at the words we were using. It was time to look at more interesting adjectives.

We looked at some adjectives from our class lists - nice, good, hot, cold, happy - you know, the old standards. Don't get me wrong, I was happy to see my students stretching themselves and using any adjective but - hey - if you want more, sometimes you have to model more!!!

We took  some of the standard adjectives and looked at other ways to say the same thing. This is easy enough for students to do if you start with the right word. "Big" is one that they seem to be able to go crazy with (since someone always wants to say ginormous!!).

I took the standard words, printed them on suitcases, then printed on bright paper. The words went on the cover of a file folder.

Inside I put a list of other words you could use that have the same meaning.

I put a hole at the top of the file folder and then put a brass fastener through it.

I stapled the back of the file folder to the bulletin board....and ta-da....an bulletin board students can use to "unpack" adjectives.

We also created a class travel journal - that the students loved to read through during reading time.

If you want to check out the resources I used you can see them here or by clicking on the picture.


1 comment

  1. I love your picture prompts that you created! I always say that "big, little, nice, cool" are not allowed in writing. I used to hang big clouds from the ceiling that had those words on them in a giant font and then some better choices all around them. The suitcases are a fabulous idea. You're the smartest and that's why I love you!
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'


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