Monday, January 19, 2015

LANGUAGE ARTS ACTIVITY - "Just Say, 'NO!' to Dull Writing"

Just Say, "NO!" to Dull Writing
This year-long "Just Say, 'NO!' to Dull Writing" activity has always been one of my star middle and high school lesson plans.  On the first day of school, hand out a "Taboo Words and Phrases - Just Say, 'NO!” and a "15 Days to Lose the Taboos” sheet to each student.  

Next, explain how you want them to use them with their writing. I required students to refer to this list for any writing-graded or non-graded. 

NOTE: Tape a copy of the list to each desk, too, for more reinforcement.

Here are some suggestions for using this product:

1. Explain that they are to refer to the Taboo list every time that they revise a draft of an essay, an original poem or fiction piece, or a narrative article. Mention that even if they only revise for these particular words and phrases, their writing will dramatically improve..
2. Discuss that
  •  when they use these weak and clichéd words and phrases, their writing is vague, emotionless, and tells instead of shows.
  • no matter what type of writing they are composing, students should strive to create word pictures;
  • their writing must show, not tell, and to do this they must use concrete, specific nouns and adjectives
  • Verbs form the backbone of writing, and should always show action as well as the emotion of the subject performing the action.

3. Write some sentences on the board that use any of the listed weak words and phrases. Have students revise them for strength and clarity.
4. Repeat this information over and over to the students and address it on their final drafts.
5. Have them complete one of the day by day exercises on the “15 Days to Lose the Taboos” handout to suit your individual agendas

The "Just Say, 'NO!' to Dull Writing list also works as a visual to hang in the classroom. For a poster, add the following information:

Effective Writing:
  • Shows instead of tells
  • Creates word pictures
  • Uses concrete, specific nouns and adjectives
  • Forms durable writing backbones through strong verbs that show action and emotion.

The other day, a former student who is now a senior in college asked me to send it to her. On my Facebook Profile page she said, "Mrs. C- I am tutoring at CNU's writing center and have to do a presentation on making writing "concise and precise." Could you send me a copy of your Taboo Words list, please? It's been and will continue to be the best advice on writing well that I've found." (Olga S).

When this Taboo Words and Phrases list impacts your students' thinking and writing, it will become a lifelong tool just as it did for Olga.

Although it is a integral part of “Chapter 2 - The Foundation” in my teacher resource book, The House of Comprehension, I offer it in my TpT store for FREE. Download this FREEBIE from

The Taboo Words and Phrases List and coordinating lessons are crucial for empowering students to write clear, specific sentences instead of those with meaningless word choices and weak structures.

Language Arts Comprehension Check: Ten Sentence Format

Note: for another FREEBIE that is a part of The House of Comprehension's 'Chapter 2 - The Foundation,' download my Primary Freebie

Happy Teaching,

Teach it Write- Build Powerful Academic Homes

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