Grade: Elementary

#3734. Using Word Referents

Reading/Writing, level: Elementary
Posted Wed May 17 13:23:26 PDT 2006 by Barbara Mariconda (
Empowering Writers
Empowering Writers, Connecticut, USA
Materials Required: a flip chart and markers, overhead projector with transparency and transparency pens,
Concepts Taught: Use word referents to enhance word choice and rich vocabulary.

Write one of the following paragraphs on the chart, overhead, or board. (Use the first paragraph is your focus will be on narrative writing, use the second for expository writing.)

1.) I stared at the leprechaun in the clearing. He was no more than two feet tall and wore a green suit and small gold shoes with big black buckles. On his head he wore a green velvet top hat. A lilting laugh escaped from the leprechaun's mouth which brought a smile to my face.

2.) Have you ever seen a horseshoe crab? The horseshoe crab lives in the seashore and saltmarsh. You might see the horseshoe crab's

helmet shaped brown shell on a sandy beach. It has a long spikey tail and many sets of legs! You might be surprised to learn that the horseshoe crab is a relative of the spider!

Read the paragraph to the class, emphasizing the repeated key words -- in the
First paragraph "leprechaun" and "he", in the second, "horseshoe crab" and

Explain that within the context of an entire piece of writing, those key words
might be repeated numerous times in redundant fashion. An author might
want to vary that redundant word choice to add interest and
richness to the writing. Using "word referents" can accomplish this.

Create a chart of "alternative words and phrases" as follows, adjectives in the
left column, nouns in the right:

Ex. Leprechaun

Adjectives Nouns
mischievous fellow
clever elf
magical trickster
Irish imp

Horseshoe Crab
unusual crustacean
interesting seashore dweller
brown crusty creature

Ask the class for more suggestions. Now, substitute the word referents for
the key words and see how the writing improves!

Finally, have students try creating "word referents" for key words in an
existing piece or a new piece of writing. For further practice try the same
exercise with the following "key words":
knight, elephant, cell phone, America --
or choose some of your own which relate to your curriculum.