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Lesson Plan

Word Choice in Writing by ECSDM


English Language Arts (2005), English Language Arts (NYS P-12 Common Core)

Grade Levels

Intermediate, 5th Grade, 6th Grade


The purpose of this lesson is to help students choose better words when they are writing dialogue. I introduce this lesson in writing remediation lab after the Language Arts teacher has presented this skill to the entire class.
Students have a tendency to overuse the word "said" when writing a conversation. This activity helps them find more descriptive and interesting words to use instead of repeating "said."


Jane Carlson, Enlarged City School District of Middletown


Students will be able to:

  • use synonyms for "said" when writing conversation.
  • write dialogue.
  • use a thesaurus.
  • create a writing piece using the writing process.
  • edit and revise work.
  • Duration

    This activity will take two 43-minute class periods.

    Materials/Web Resources

    SMART Board
    Chart paper
    Materials for writing (paper/journals, pencils, etc.)

  • Synonyms List
  • Procedure

    • After working on writing conversations and dialogue in class, I present this lesson. I offer the students a choice of topics (usually a few such as: a Mets and a Yankees fan talking, a Jets and a Giants fan talking, a cat and a dog talking, a pen and a pencil talking, etc.) The class decides which topic they wish to develop.
    • I give the students about five to ten minutes to write on their own. I then stop the students and have them read their conversations out loud.
    • As they read what they have written, I type their conversations onto the SMART Board. Students take turns making sure that the sentences are punctuated correctly.
    • Then, I ask the students to count the number of times that the word "said" was used. We discuss if using "said" so many times makes for interesting writing. I ask students for suggestions about how to avoid using "said" so many times. The students agree that they need to use other words to keep the reader's attention.
    • At this point, I ask students to start making a list of synonyms for the word "said." They work in pairs. Each pair has to come up with 25 to 50 different synonyms for "said."
    • At this point, I hand each pair a thesaurus and quickly review with students how to use it.
    • Students make their master list. On chart paper, I write down all the synonyms that they have come up with.
    • Now we go back to the SMART Board and the conversations that were written. Students take turns going to the SMART Board and take turns replacing "said" with various synonyms. As a class, we discuss the impact the different words will have on the conversation. For example, using the word "exclaimed" connotes something different than the word "whispered."
    • When the students are satisfied with their editing, they compare the original conversation with the new edited version.


    Completed Synonym List
    Completed conversations
    Class participation

    SMART Board

    This instructional content was intended for use with a SMART Board. To download free SMART Notebook software from the SMART Technologies website, please click here.

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