To a word lover, a cleverly constructed phrase with eloquent vocabulary can bring you to tears. I love studying how words look, how they are spelled—knowing how their structure, use, and placement determine their meaning. (Yes, I am a word nerd and proud of it. But that’s for me.) Very few of my students have been as enamored with words like I am, which presents quite a challenge when trying to help students see the value in using just the right words to communicate their ideas.
As an educator, I want to help students discover the joy of words. If nothing else, students will come to appreciate why we say things the way we do in English. More and more, students are required in schools to articulate, in words, their understanding of how things in the world work. So, the way we help kids communicate matters. That’s why I teach kids Power Words. Power Words are synonymous terms that have a more specific meaning. Want your kids’ writing to improve? Show them how to use words that convey very specific meaning.
Take a quick look at this Power Words chart from the Shurley English curriculum. Notice how, in each case, the Power Word has a similar, but more specific or specific contextual meaning that relates to the original word. Sometimes, the original word can pack more punch that the related Power Word, but that’s the beauty of focused vocabulary study. Can’t you just imagine the rich conversations that could ensue in a classroom by discussing how each word, both the original and the Power Word, can impact the meaning of a sentence?
Look at the word silently in the last column. Let’s take for granted that we all know how to incorporate silently into a sentence…but the word is rather general in meaning. The first thing I would discuss with my students is the context for the word. Since I want my students to thoroughly understand what context is, I usually have them describe various scenarios that can support the meaning of silently. For instance, someone might offer the context of a game of Hide-n-Seek. Someone else might think that a dark, haunted castle is a better fit. Take in as many ideas your as class can generate. Then, choose the one specific context on which to base your sentence.
Are you getting the picture? Well, I hope so, because that is the point…a picture in your mind—that’s context. Then, the sentence becomes the written expression that relates the thought, a snippet of sublime meaning that can truly enhance your students’ writing. In a way, just as a painter uses various kinds of brushes and paints to express a feeling or a scene, writers paint with words, using tools like the parts of speech, varied sentence lengths, simple and complex sentence structures, and punctuation…all to communicate their ideas. Take some time to explore vocabulary with your kids. If you’re using Shurley English, approach each Power Word event with unbridled enthusiasm, and your students will eventually come to understand the value and artistry of painting with words.