The 350+ adjectives in the PDFs and slideshow below are compiled to help students expand their vocabulary, in particular when answering questions such as:
“Describe the character of…”
“What sort of person do you think…?”
“What do you learn about the personality of…?”
“What impression do you form of…?”
Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing Activities
I’ve detailed collaborative writing, improvisation and story chain activities, as well as a game called ‘Homonym!’, on the ‘Homonym!’ post which can be adapted for use with the adjectives below.
See the captions below each image for details of the PDF.
|List of Adjectives||Table of adjectives with definitions|
|‘Advective!’ Alphabetical||‘Adjective!’ Random|
|‘Adjective!’ Blank||‘Adjective!’ Score Sheet|
The cards will appear in a random order in the slideshow below. Press the pause button to stop the auto-play and use the arrows to navigate between cards.
Useful alternative to printing out the cards, especially if students have their own devices.
In June The Guardian published some tips from teachers, including me, on how to encourage students to read for pleasure.
Below are my tips from the article, as well as a few other points which were raised when corresponding with Martin Williams, the journalist who wrote the article. Many of these points complement what I previously wrote about literacy in a live chat on The Guardian.
I think having a regularly-updated print-rich environment is important to have in the classroom. The surroundings should encourage reading in all its forms and support their choices of reading material. It may even spark interest in reading.
I don’t simply mean putting up a poster which tries to promote reading because it’s ‘cool’/etc. – I think they’re totally ineffective. A poster with a list of reasons why reading is ‘cool’ won’t convince anybody to pick up a book, particularly when considering the ages of students in secondary school.
Instead, students (and teachers!) could share the name of the book that they’re reading at the moment, and offer a sentence about the book. It’s a good example of how to encourage and support reading in the physical classroom environment, and a great way to share recommendations from student to student, teacher to student, and even student to teacher.
Drop Everything And Read
In terms of embedding a reading habit at school, I think reading time is important, for example through Drop Everything And Read. DEAR needs to be grounded in reading for pleasure rather than a task to be done at school (‘reading because we have to’), and book choice and availability is therefore crucial to this. It’s a great way to encourage reading for pleasure, particularly when there may not be strong encouragement at home or good access to books outside of school.
Time in the local and/or school library can also be beneficial. In the library as with DEAR, students need time to explore what’s on offer, find books they may like, and, of course, change the book if it isn’t appealing to them; forcing them to stay with a book they don’t like can do more harm than good.
From my experiences there can be a reluctance among students to read.
However, there’s something to consider when making such a statement: is this a reluctance to ‘read’ or a reluctance to ‘read books’? To a certain extent I think there may be an inclination to only consider and favour books and discount the other facets of what reading is.
A 200-300 page book may seem short to some, but these can be intimidating to reluctant readers. Audiobooks, comics, e-books, short stories, online articles and reviews, magazines about their interests – these shouldn’t be ignored.
Based on my own experiences in teaching, the hesitancy of the majority of the ‘reluctant readers’ dissipates when they find something they like and want to read – the material and medium which ‘suits’ and appeals to them.
Reading is a personal, individualised experience; freedom to choose what to read is key to their enjoyment of reading.
Introduce students to a wide variety of texts, mediums and genres – they may surprise themselves once they have faced preconceived ideas about what they consider enjoyable and embrace a diversity in what they read.
World Book Day and World Book Night have great potential which can be harnessed in the classroom. For instance, I was a WBN Book Giver this year and I made a Padlet for recipients of the books to access in order to strengthen the encouragement to read. Among other things, the Padlet contained websites for reviews and recommendations, books I recommend, and details of the local library.
Of course, other book and reading activities/events can also help promote reading for pleasure but, like WBD and WBN, they still have to engage with each student involved in order to have a meaningful impact.
As I’ve mentioned previously, it’s crucial to bear in mind what the student wants to read. Having this control shouldn’t be undervalued, and I think they should be allowed to venture from one type of book to another. Reading is reading, no matter what kind of book/etc. it is.
I consider encouragement from parents to be quite an important factor: it can difficult to instil a reading habit if it only happens at school.
Access to books and other reading material is just as important. I recognise that the school setting for some students may be the only place access to books may be possible, and, whether or not encouragement is in abundance outside of the school setting, we must do our best to encourage students’ reading and textual choices.
The cards I created for these activities are inspired by a TV game show called Homonym! featured on 30 Rock in which a contestant must define the homonym of a word spoken by the host (played by Steve Higgins).
The activities featured below won’t be as unfair as that!
But first, let’s get the pedantry out of the way:
The strictest definition of a ‘homonym’ would tell you that a homonym is a group of words which have the same spelling (homograph) and the same pronunciation (homophone) but with different meanings.
However, in the more ‘looser’ sense ‘homonym’ is defined as having the same spelling or pronunciation but with different meanings.
So, strictly speaking, the 400 words on cards I have at the end of this post are homophones. But, in light of the aforementioned inspiration, I chose to keep the titles on the cards as ‘Homonym!’. (Plus, ‘homonym’ is a lovely word to say.)
Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing Activities
This is by no means an exhaustive list; these are written specifically with the ‘Homonym!’ cards in mind and can easily be adapted to suit using any bank of words.
Students compose a piece of text (story, scene, dialogue between two characters, film script, etc.) in groups and present it to the class.
- The class is divided into groups. Each member of the group is assigned a role for the activity. Each group is given a random selection of the cards. Each of these words are to be used in their text.
- Teacher assigns roles to the members of each group. Depending on the size of your group, roles may include:
Facilitator (ensures group understands the task; ensures participation from everyone in the group, and a consensus on ideas and what is being written; keeps track of what words have left to be mentioned in their text)
Prioritiser (keeps the group aware of time constraints; ensures the group stays on task and isn’t caught-up on particular points)
Scribe (writes what the group agrees to say; acts as the primary ‘devil’s advocate’ who is to constructively argue details of the written piece)
Spokesperson/Reporter (answers questions from teacher checking on the group’s progress and conveys response from teacher to the rest of the group; introduces what the group wrote; reads out the finished piece; answers questions from the class and teacher after presenting the piece)
In addition to their specified roles, everyone in the group should contribute ideas.
- Teacher provides each group with a short list of what they can choose to write (with an opening line for each item on the list). From the list, the group decides on which one they will create.
The list is to act as a prompt. Some groups may wish to select something not on the list.
- Teacher monitors the groups’ progress. After a few minutes, teacher asks for a spoken progress report from the Spokesperson/Reporter of one group. Teacher then asks for a report from the next group.
- Once each group has finished writing the piece, they must work together to write a very brief introduction.
- Each group’s Spokesperson then presents their written piece and answer questions from the class.
Depending on the text, students may wish to act out their piece or voice different characters.
If students chose an entry on the list which involves comedy, the cards students were given can inspire them:
“I saw the prints today and -” / “Prince?! What prince?”
“Oh, give me patience.” / “Doctor, they’re in the waiting room.”
For this, students need to be familiar with their homonyms/homophones!
- Teacher is the ‘host’, students are the ‘contestants’.
- Teacher selects a card at random and speaks the word on the card.
- Students note as many homonyms/homophones that they can think of (e.g. way/weigh; rain/reign/rein), and then put them in a single sentence exactly as they are (e.g. “The heirs had airs.” / “As an idol, he was idle.”).
Students should be aware that the word endings should stay the same in their sentence.
- Teacher selects another card and students repeat their task.
Alternatively, students can be asked to try and write a story, sentence by sentence.
- Teacher then selects two words.
- Students list the possible homonyms/homophones for each word and write two sentences incorporating each variation.
- Once the teacher has finished calling out the words, students swap what they have wrote.
- Students get one point for each homonym/homophone and two points for each correct usage of the words in their sentences.
A sample table for students’ sentences and points can be found below under ‘Cards’.
Similar to the story chain, this focuses on oral skills.
Students are in pairs and must improvise a conversation between two characters.
- Students are given a random selection of cards and are asked to go in pairs for the timed activity.
Teacher may ask students to show or hide the words on the cards from each other. Choosing to show the cards can act as an aid; they will try and steer the conversation so certain words are used. Choosing to not show the words on the cards can make it a bit more challenging and perhaps create a more ‘natural’ conversation.
- Each pair is assigned a scenario (e.g. “Two friends trapped in an elevator.” / “Hiring a private detective.” / “A weird job interview.” / “Leonardo da Vinci painting the woman of The Mona Lisa.”).
While the teacher is doing this, students should be familiarising themselves with their cards and deciding who will speak first. Regardless of whether they show their cards to each other or not, they have to follow their scenario!
- Teacher starts the timer and students begin their conversation. Once a student says a word on their card, they can put it down.
- Once the time is up, students should have used all of the words they have.
This time, each pair is asked to improvise the conversation while the rest of the class observes and notes any homophones.
- Students are asked to go in pairs. Each pair is given a selection of cards.
- Teacher selects a pair and quietly tells them their scenario, how much time they have, and who speaks first.
- While these two students act out the scene, the other pairs who are observing must guess the scenario they were given and note any words they identified as homophones.
- Once the time is up, the pair should have used all the words they were given.
- Teacher asks the observing pairs what they thought the scenario was.
- The students who improvised then reveal the words on their cards and the scenario they were given.
This can also be done in small groups of 3-4 students.
This is an example of a ‘story chain’.
Focusing on receptive (listening) and expressive (speaking) skills, the aim is to orally create a structured and coherent short story. (See Short Story Tips.)
Displaying a collage of images for all students to see can act as an effective visual prompt for ideas. Alternatively, students could be asked to create a story from the images (with this, the students create the theme instead of the teacher).
In this activity, students create the setting, plot, characters, dialogue, and so on.
- Each student selects a card at random. Teacher sets a theme for the story (e.g. a murder mystery).
- The first student forms a sentence with the word on their card.
Teacher takes the card and student selects another card at random.
- The next student adds their own sentence which includes the word on their card.
Teacher again replaces the card.
- This continues until the class agrees that the story has reached a natural conclusion.
Alternatively, the teacher can stop the story at an interesting moment and ask students to write their own ending.
An optional addition to this is to ask students to repeat the sentence last spoken before sharing their sentence with the class.
In selecting the homonyms/homophones, I eliminated those which that are primarily dependent on dialect.
See the captions below each image for details of the PDF.
The cards will appear in a random order in the slideshow below. Press the pause button to stop the auto-play and use the arrows to navigate between cards.
Useful alternative to printing out the cards, especially if students have their own devices. For instance, if playing the ‘Homonym!’ game outlined above the students can use the slideshow to get their words, and they can type their entries in a spreadsheet/table/etc.
As it was the same week as World Book Day, many of the comments tended to focus on reading (and reluctant readers) and writing. In preparation, I gathered some of my thoughts on the more practical side to literacy in the classroom so that I would be better able to keep up with the number of comments.
I was asked in a Twitter DM for some approaches to developing reading skills. Below is my (edited) response, as well as some of my other comments from the Q&A.
Approaches I’ve used to develop reading skills
1. Physical Environment
As I mentioned in a comment asking about strategies to implement in a History class, I think having a visually (and textually) rich environment which is regularly updated is important to have in the classroom. It gives students the opportunity to get creative: word walls, maps and illustrations, a themed wall (e.g. portraits of poets and their important works accompanied with a few sentences about each, or images/articles focusing on a particular theme such as ‘identity’ – get the students to create it!), and cut-outs from magazines/newspapers relevant to a particular topic the class has learned about.
a.) Promote voluntary student reading by discussing book choices in class to support their choices of reading material, and celebrate students’ reading accomplishments (e.g. give students a ‘reading log/journal’ or have a ‘reading wall’ in class).
The reading wall can have small coloured pieces of card pinned on it showing the name of the student/teacher, what they’re reading at the moment, and a sentence about the book. They change their entries once they have finished reading the book. If the book was available in the school library or local library, this can also be mentioned on the card. For extra visual impact, add print outs of the book covers around the board. This will create a positive, supportive classroom environment in which students are encouraged to read and they are in charge of their own reading and choices of books – something which I think is very important.
b.) Add some colour! Regularly update the walls with students’ own creations or printed posters. I’ve seen a few classrooms in which students created prints of poetry (an illustration of ‘Wandered lonely…’ spanned a few A3 sheets) or important quotes from plays/novels (the quote plus a related image). Great way to reduce the number of old materials on walls and corridors!
c.) Use keyword and KWL/KWLA charts. Students identify key words (e.g. important words or new/difficult words) in the studied topic/lesson. Students keep a record of the words used on the keyword chart, thus consolidating their vocabulary. A strategy which can be used to expand/apply this vocabulary is by using cloze or crazy cloze sheets. The JCSP website has some printables to use for KWL and a variety of other strategies.
2. Model approaches in selecting and retrieving information from texts
For example, highlighting important passages/events/ideas, underlining key words/concepts/quotations.
3. Comprehension skills
a.) Tapping into prior knowledge via prediction activities with questions such as ‘what do you think happens next?’
b.) Read for meaning by decoding and understanding main points of information in a text by skimming. Re-reading is also helpful for this. Combined, these should encourage students to continue reading if they encounter a word they do not understand.
d.) Deduce/infer/interpret information in texts by using ‘Who/What/Where am I?’ activities. Inferring from visual images is also very useful (e.g. a man with an umbrella = it is raining). Pair/group work works particularly well for this.
e.) Creating images using information presented in a text (students could create their own images by elaborating on a description in a text).
4. Fluency – role-play/improvisation
Students read out loud a text in different ways to demonstrate expression/intonation. The expressions can be influenced by punctuation and phrasing. This needs to go a step further in a role-play/improv scenario: how a character has felt earlier in a scene or their body language, for example, can influence this.
Acting out texts will also illustrate the effects of punctuation: for example, the effect of full-stop vs an exclamation mark when speaking/reading (change the punctuation to yield some humorous results!).
I use this role-play/improvisation to develop students’ awareness of how dialogue is spoken when they are reading individually/silently. Looking back on my own practice, I’ve found that it is has also proven useful for word decoding. I think role-play/improv can also be incredibly useful (and fun) in building conversational/oral skills.
Some of my other comments from the Q&A
Definitely agree that History can be quite text-based. Something I would suggest is to try and give students a digital space for students to contribute to in class or at home, e.g. creating a History Wiki using Wikipaces or creating blogs for students.
I think having a visually (and textually) rich environment which is regularly updated is also important to have in the classroom, and it also gives students the opportunity to get creative: word walls, maps and illustrations from periods in History (e.g. the Hereford map, map of Europe during WWI), a themed wall (e.g. portraits of artists and their important works accompanied with a few sentences about each – get the students to create it!), and cut-outs from magazines/newspapers relevant to a particular topic the class has learned about.
In relation to whole school strategies, I’ve found the Drop Everything And Read (DEAR) initiative to be particularly good. There’s a danger to avoid here: students viewing DEAR as another task to be done in school. Book choice is important to prevent that; ask students what topics they are interested in, what authors they like (if any!), and then start accumulating books. A reading log/journal or a printable ‘book review’ may benefit some – something for them to reflect on and evaluate what they have read! Once it’s based in reading for pleasure rather than ‘reading because we have to’, it should work excellently.
Using key-word charts and KWL/KWLA reinforces student vocabulary across the whole school. Students keeping note of key words is sometimes overlooked. JCSP and PDST have some excellent printables to use for KWL and a variety of other strategies.
Cross-curricular linking is valuable as part of a whole-school literacy strategy too. Involves a bit of teacher co-operation to match-up what is being done in multiple subjects.
From my experience, speaking/listening often get put to the side when approaching literacy. Like reading and writing, they’re essential life skills.
Some find it challenging to incorporate a mixture of LSRW in lessons and whole-school strategies, but I think it’s essential that we hit all four bases with our students.
Here are a few I’ve used in the past:
– Listening tasks: reading aloud & asking students to re-tell it; improvisation activity in which students must continue a story.
– Building conversational/oral skills tasks: I’ve found role-play/improv to be incredibly useful (and fun).
– Auditory memory tasks: a quick ‘Chinese Whisper’ relevant to the learning (this obviously comes with a warning!).
As jcatton mentioned, it needs to be “seen in context.” I think having some ‘seize the moment’ activities in lessons is a nice way of doing this. Switching the order of punctuation marks or the form of a word can illustrate why they were in a certain form and order. Likewise in simply reading a poem, unchanged, which has many commas or run-on lines: students can better grasp how to read the text when it is read aloud using the ‘brief pause’ of a comma etc. Chain writing and human sentence line can work well with the younger groups of secondary schools, particularly for developing vocabulary and spelling. Latc22’s comment earlier in the chat about the ‘mantle of the expert’ is definitely worth looking at. A problem-solving or ‘correcting’ approach might also be worth considering (students receive a piece of text and they have to identify what is wrong with it).
I should add that the English syllabi stress that “language skills” (listening, speaking, reading, writing) are not themselves schemes of work – they should be integrated into each syllabus unit as part of an “organic wholeness of experience in the living context” (JC English Draft Syllabus for Consultation (Rebalanced Syllabus), p. 1). In other words, language skills are to be developed in a meaningful context – not in the abstract. This point is also valid when discussing the development of literacy skills (e.g. oral language in the integrated language process, and likewise with reading, writing, digital literacy, etc.), and I think it is best achieved through active learning.
Do some teachers find the use of technology in the classroom a barrier or an aid in boosting literacy? I’ve found its usage to be very beneficial for students in promoting LSRW skills (listening, speaking, reading, writing).
And what about the students’ use of technology? Do you think we can improve literacy levels by ‘exploiting’ their access to this? From my experience, some students who are reluctant to read a (physical) book cite the “length” of the book, and they are actually more willing to read it in e-book format on a smartphone or tablet. They may be reading in shorter bursts, but they’re still reading.
Anyone here teaching in a school with a literacy plan which incorporates more than reading and writing – what about the promotion of listening/speaking skills and “visual” and “digital” literacy?
Approaches for both primary and post-primary students were in abundance, but establishing some continuity between primary and post-primary was something which I thought wasn’t stressed enough. I think being familiar with and continuing the literacy strategies the students encountered at primary level is an excellent way to inform your own literacy practices in a post-primary classroom (e.g. drafting/re-drafting – a valuable skill to build upon).
The English curriculum page on the PDST site is also very useful.
As I previously mentioned, the Q&A tended to focus on reading and writing. Of course, we know that ‘literacy’ encompasses much more than that. What about oral skills for instance? Some comments in the Q&A mentioned this, but reading and writing clearly took prominence.
A concept in the current Junior Certificate English syllabus is the fostering of a “growth in listening, speaking, reading and writing” (JC English Draft Syllabus for Consultation (Rebalanced Syllabus), p. 1, my emphasis) – and this is carried forward to the Leaving Certificate syllabus: “students should engage with the domains of comprehending and composing in oral, written and, where possible, visual contexts… They will come to see acts of speaking, listening, reading and writing not just as instrumental skills but as interpretive, creative activities through which specific meanings can be placed on experience” (LC Syllabus, p. 14, my emphasis).
Effective questioning in the classroom is the most common way we try to develop these skills – it’s an everyday occurrence. Walking debates and fishbowl conversations are excellent methods to use to focus primarily on oral skills and they can be used as interventions (or “seizing the moment” activities) in any lesson – during a poetry revision activity, an introduction to repetition in speech writing, etc.
However, the Literacy and Numeracy for Learning and Life reported that “the opportunity provided by the syllabus to engage students with a range of literary and non-literary texts and develop their literacy skills, including their oral language skills, is not fully exploited in classrooms due to a focus on teaching to the examination and an overuse of textbooks which largely promote lower-order thinking skills” ( p. 51, my emphasis). We know that steps have been made in response to this under the new Junior Cycle English Specification, in which communication skills form some of the learning outcomes, and oral communication will actually be assessed and form 15% of the subject (60 marks out of 400).
In light of the findings of the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy (as well as my own experience): are oral skills being accounted for in whole-school literacy approaches? Are listening and speaking skills currently “put to the side” in other teachers’ experiences?
I use a lot of visual materials in class to develop a skills such as comprehension skills (TV Adverts and Film Posters, for example), create projects which prompt students to research online and encourage students to read extra materials which I put online for them. In the Q&A, Latc22 offered an anecdote about putting materials online for students.
Much more so than oral skills, there is a great emphasis on students (and teachers) using technology in the classroom. Despite this, “visual” and “digital” literacy were almost wholly absent from the discussion. I again wonder to what extent these are being accounted for in schools’ literacy plans.