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Word Choice How writers transform a piece from ordinary to extraordinary.

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1 Word Choice How writers transform a piece from ordinary to extraordinary

2 Word Choice  Apply strong verbs  Choose action words that add energy in the active voice.  Select striking words and phrases  Search for the perfect word or phrase; try using figurative language.  Use specific and accurate words  Strive for words that describe your point with precision.  Choose words that deepen meaning  Spark your reader’s imagination with thoughtful use of words.

3 Word Choice: Applying Strong Verbs  Choose action words that add energy in the active voice.  Has he used action verbs?  Did he stretch to get a better word—scurry rather than run?  Do his verbs give the writing punch and pizzazz?  Did he avoid is, am, are, were, be, being, and been whenever he could?

4 Chrissie shifted in her seat, and the hair lying on Jim’s history book moved slightly and became a small, glossy animal curled and napping in the sun. A muskrat, Jim thought. No, a mink. No, a small, black fox. A kit. Jim wondered if a kit fox would bite you if you tried to pet it. He placed his left hand on his history book and drummed his fingers. He slowly slid his fingers up the page toward Chrissie’s hair. Chrissie shifted again. The kit twitched in its sleep, dreaming of green fields lush with almost inaudibly whispered, “Shh.” The kit remained still. He moved his hand up the slick paper, a line, a half line at a time, through the Yankee blockade, at Wilmington. Only the bravest blockade-running captains, under cover of darkness, were able to bring desperately needed supplies into the besieged port. Jim raised his middle finger and inched his hand forward until his finger was suspended above Chrissie’s black hair. He took a deep breath. He lowered his finger and touched her hair as gently as he knew how to touch anything. He had never felt anything so soft. from The Blue Star by Tony Earley

5 The Blue Star by Tony Earley  Independently: Circle the all of the verbs in the excerpt.  As a class: List the verbs on the whiteboard.  With your team: Determine what emotion is Earley describing.  In pairs: Pick an emotion. Write at least four sentences to describe this emotion but do NOT name it. Underline the verbs, checking to make sure they are as strong as possible.  As a class: Volunteers will read their sentences.  Independently: Record your favorite verbs from Earley’s excerpt or your classmates’ writing.

6 Word Choice: Select Striking Words and Phrases  Search for the perfect word or phrase; try using figurative language.  Did I try to use words that sound just right?  Did I try hyphenating several shorter words to make an interesting-sounding new word?  Did I try putting words with the same sound together?  Did I read my piece aloud to find at least one or two moments I love?

7 Compare these two paragraphs. Homework is terrible. I hate homework. I work pretty hard in school, and so I don’t know why I have to do so much at home, too. There is a lot of stuff I’d rather do than homework. I wish we never had to do it any more. No reruns of Leave It to Beaver. No Minecraft. No toe-tapping tunes from Beyonce. No life. When I get home from school, I don’t grab my board to do a goofy-grab or fakey-stance or try for my first air walk. No, I do homework. That sit-in-your-chair-until- it’s-done work that never ends, day after live-long day. Until Saturday. Then it’s my time. But meanwhile, I’m doing my math, studying my science, reading my book, wishing I was free.

8 Fairy Tale E-mail  Look at your fairy tale character. Don’t tell who you are!  Compose an e-mail from your character. Include the following:  “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” in the subject line.  An introduction revealing where you live. Use just-right descriptions (“magnificent castle” or “brick house”).  Your favorite things to do. Use compound adjectives to describe personality traits (“mirror-gazing time waster” or “evil pig-eating schemer”)  Your favorite foods or drinks. Use alliteration to describe them (“bubbling broth” or “pickled pork”).  Your closest friends and family members or people or animals who know you best. Describe what makes you unique from their point of view.  A problem that requires the help of the e-mail’s recipient.

9 Word Choice: Using Specific and Accurate Words  Strive for words that describe your point with precision.  Have I used nouns and modifiers that help the reader see a picture?  Did I avoid using words that might confuse the reader?  Did I use words that might pleasantly surprise the reader?  Are these the most precise words I could have used?

10 Specific, Accurate, Splendid  Specific words replace generic words  Use oreo instead of cookie; use Diet Pepsi instead of soda.  Accurate words used in content areas  Use galaxy instead of bunch of stars  Splendid words are words that wow readers. Splendid words are words that wow you  Use abomination instead of intense hatred  Use predilection instead of preference  Some other favorites are lightning, hilarious, and curious.

11 Chewing on the end of my pencil, I got back to my list, which Gram said was one of the things I did best. I had all kinds of lists in my notebook, the shortest being “Things I am Good At” which consisted of 1) Soap carving, 2) Worrying, and 3) Making lists. There was my “Regular and Everyday Worries” list which included 1) Gram was going to die because she was old, and 2) Owen would never be right, 3) I will forget something if I don’t make a list, 4) I will lose my lists, and 5) Abominations. I made a list of splendid words, types of rocks, books I read, and unusual names. Not to mention the lists I had copied, including “Baby Animal Names,” “Breeds of Horses,” and my current favorite, “Animal Groups from the Complete and Unabridged Animal Kingdom with over 200 Photographs.” from Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Munoz Ryan

12 Lame Similes and Metaphors…oh my!  Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a thigh exerciser.  She grew on him like she was E. coli and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.  She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like a dog gagging.  Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.  The little boat drifted across the pond exactly like a bowling bowl wouldn’t.  Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.  John and Mary never met. They were like hummingbirds who had also never met.  The ballerina rose gracefully en point and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.  It hurt the way your tongue hurts after you accidentally staple it to the wall.

13 Word Choice: Choosing Words that Deepen Meaning  Spark your reader’s imagination with thoughtful use of words.  Did I choose words that show I really thought about them?  Have I tried to use words without repeating myself?  Do my words capture the reader’s imagination?  Have I found the best way to express myself?

14 Compare these two paragraphs. I’m the best goalie ever. It’s a really, really hard job. Nobody else can do it but me. I’m the best goalie our team has had in like, two or three years, I think. I’m pretty sure that’s true. Anyway, I’m a really good goalie. I love playing goalie because it’s the best and really greatest position. Heads up! Here they come, thundering down the field right at me— twenty girls bearing down, and ten hoping to catch me unaware. My heart starts to race and I position myself in front of the goal anticipating their forward’s signature move of passing the ball to her wing for a quick goal There it is…ka-thump. Ah, I caught it. What a laugh. Nice try, ladies, I think to myself as I draw the ball in close, willing it not to pop out of my arms. Now, look out. I’m going to kick it so far they’ll never get back down to this end again. There it goes, thwack…far across the field, landing right at the nimble feet of one of my own players. Sweet!

15 Scary Stories and Forbidden Words  Brainstorm ideas for a scary story. Think of plot, characters, settings and problems needing to be resolved.  With a partner, write a one-page story which may be real, imagined, or a combination of both. Take 10 minutes to plan.  You have 20 minutes to write. But…  you may NOT use the following words or any variation of the words:  Afraid, alarm, creep, dread, fear, flesh, fright, panic, petrify, scare, shock, spook, startle, surprise, sweat, terrify, terror, unbelievable  Listen and note one word or phrase that surprises you.  Discuss: What did you learn about deepening meaning by limiting access to familiar words and phrases?

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