Creative writing can be a powerful tool for increasing your students’ vocabulary.
Having fun whilst learning is an objective that most teachers aim for and this can be achieved during a lesson with a focus on writing. Getting your students’ creative juices flowing will result in fun lessons and lots of opportunities for learning new vocabulary. Adjectives are just one area of vocabulary that can benefit from writing creatively.
Many students may claim that they don’t know where to start with creative writing but giving clear instructions and suggested themes will start the ball rolling. Using a story telling exercise to teach topic vocabulary is just one way of getting their creativity going. Don’t be disheartened if they don’t take to the idea immediately, they will once they see how easily a story can evolve from a simple prompt!
Try these creative writing ideas to help your students to expand their bank of adjectives:
Use These Ideas for Teaching Adjectives in an Efficient Way
Character Adjectives Warmer
Ask students to pair up with a student they don’t know well and write ten adjectives to describe what they think the other student is like. For example they may choose friendly, serious, clever etc. When they have written ten adjectives they should compare their lists and see whether they are correct.
We all make assumptions when we first meet someone and this is a good ‘getting to know you’ exercise. Describing character is an essential part of creative writing and one in which you can have lots of fun. In pairs ask your students to make assumptions about another pair that they don’t know well. Give them prompts ie Do they like Chocolate? Do they play football? Who is their favourite band? Make sure you give them some suggestions and make it clear that they’re not writing what they know but what they think! When they’ve made their assumptions they should join up with the other pair and discuss them to see which are true and which are not.
Tell your students that they are now going to create their own character. First they have to decide the following; age, gender, appearance, interests/job. Then give them a list of around ten questions to consider. For example: How would they feel if their best friend had a party and didn’t invite them? What would they do if somebody fainted in front of them? How do they feel when they watch a scary movie? When they have answered these questions they will have a good basis for a character which can then be developed.
The idea is to get your students to describe a famous person in as much detail as possible. Put the students in pairs and ask them to choose two famous people and brainstorm as many descriptive adjectives as they can to describe them. Give prompts such as hair colour, physical build, eye colour etc. but stress that this is about appearance not personality. When complete do the same with descriptive adjectives about personality, job, nationality. They are only allowed to use adjectives – allow them to use dictionaries if necessary. When they have at least ten adjectives the pair should join with another pair and try to guess each other’s celebrity from the descriptive adjectives.
If possible take the students out of the classroom. Let them look around them and brainstorm as many adjectives as they can to describe what they can see, smell, hear and touch. Then back in the classroom get them to find synonyms for the adjectives they have come up with and construct a poem or short descriptive passage using the new adjectives.
Where I live
In mixed nationality classes ask the students to brainstorm as many descriptive adjectives as they can about the town/city where they live. Alternatively they could write an acrostic and find an adjective to represent their town/city for each letter of the name. Check out http://busyteacher.org/6712-n-fun-esl-activities-you-can-do-with-a-name.html for other activities using acrostics.
Students often like to use music in lessons and a good way to elicit some adjectives for mood is to play a piece of music and ask your students to write a few adjectives to describe how it makes them feel.
People-watching is a large part of any writer’s life and can make a fun homework activity. Ask your students to look around them when they are next on the bus or walking around outside of the school. Ask them to look for someone who looks interesting to them and write down some of their observations. Ask them to think about appearance, personality, feelings and background. They can then use their observations to develop a character.
Give your students a descriptive passage from a book, magazine or newspaper. Blank out all the descriptive adjectives in the passage and ask you students to add their own. They can then join another student and compare their passages.
All of these ideas will expand your students’ bank of adjectives.
Getting them into the habit of looking for synonyms when they learn a new word and to step away from the use of favourites they’ve already learnt can only enhance their learning experience. It is not always necessary to stress that an activity is focused on vocabulary but let the vocabulary come naturally from a descriptive or writing exercise. Most students are enthusiastic about learning new words and will participate fully in any activity which helps them to do this. Most of all have fun!