A gathering of adjectives | Writing activity

Neon adjective

A couple of days ago I talked about the importance of helping your children develop their writing vocabularies through the use of writing games and word banks. Here’s an activity that serves both purposes: It’s a vocabulary-building game that helps your kids create word lists of their own—specifically, a gathering of adjectives. You can play this game with students of all ages.


  • Familiar object to pass around
  • Spiral notebook
  • Index cards or slips of paper
  • Pen or pencil
  • Simple drawing materials (optional)


  1. On a new page of the notebook, write the name of a familiar object on the top line.
  2. Hand the object to one of your kids and ask him to look at it, touch it, and pick a single word to describe it. If the object is a seashell, your third grader might choose a word such as hard, bumpy, pretty, or breakable. Given the same seashell, your eleventh grader may come up with scalloped, fragile, jagged, or exquisite.
  3. As the object is passed back and forth among your children (or between you and your child), and each one gives a descriptive word, write the adjective in the notebook and also on an index card.
  4. When you have gathered about ten adjectives, take turns picking an index card and using that adjective in a sentence. Describe something different from the familiar object. For instance, “Grandma’s cookie tray has a scalloped edge,” or “My turtle’s shell feels like bumpy stones.”
  5. Once your family has practiced with a real object, give them a chance to respond to a word. “Tea cup” may prompt the following: hard, smooth, breakable, delicate, transluscent, fragile, brittle, clattering, beautiful, flowered, china, porcelain.

Just think how exciting it will be when your normally word-phobic child starts producing such descriptive words! You’ll begin to realize that each of the collected adjectives is a familiar word to her but has been stuck in some distant mental file. And your joy will be complete as you see some of these words start to spill over into her writing.

Want To Do More?

  • Repeat the activity, choosing a new object to pass around. Start a new page in the spiral notebook.
  • If someone gets stuck, let him use a thesaurus for help.
  • For a more hands-on activity, students can illustrate their new sentences and read them aloud. You can keep these together with the notebook as examples.
  • Keep the notebook handy whenever your kids write.

2008 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

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