Standard Lesson

Delicious, Tasty, Yummy: Enriching Writing with Adjectives and Synonyms

3 - 5
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Six 30- to 60-minute sessions
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Students' vocabulary is expanded and their writing is enriched when they are encouraged to use a variety of adjectives to help readers "see, taste, and feel" what they've written. In this lesson for grades 3 and 4, picture books are used as a springboard for helping students define, identify, and practice using adjectives and synonyms. They develop webbed lists and then put their new vocabulary skills to use by writing form poems.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

  • Vocabulary acquisition can be categorized along a continuum: unknown (complete unfamiliarity), acquainted (familiar but not used in writing or speaking), and established (ownership-can use in speaking and writing). Children move along this continuum through exposure, reflection, and practice.

  • Vocabulary instruction needs to help students explore what words mean in the context of other words using synonyms, antonyms, linkages, and connotations, in addition to simply defining words.

  • Vocabulary webs are preferable to lists because they help students learn words in meaningful groups or clusters.

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • Apples by Gail Gibbons (Holiday House, 2000)

  • The Supermarket by Kathleen Krull (Holiday House, 2001)

  • The Supermarket by Harlow Rockwell (Simon & Schuster Children's, 1979)

  • Hairy, Scary, Ordinary: What Is an Adjective? by Brian P. Clearly (Learner Publishing Group, 2000)

  • Kingfisher First Thesaurus by George Beal (Kingfisher, 1993)

  • Apples

  • Large brown paper bags

  • Highlighting markers

  • Thesauri and dictionaries





1. Obtain and familiarize yourself with Apples by Gail Gibbons and Hairy, Scary, Ordinary: What Is an Adjective? by Brian P. Cleary.

You will also want to look at The Supermarket by Kathleen Krull and The Supermarket by Harlow Rockwell, choosing one as a read-aloud to jumpstart students' thoughts about supermarkets and all the things inside a market. The first book is geared toward slightly older elementary students. Its colorful illustrations provide details about the market including the sections, various aisles, sounds, smells, and fun facts. The second book provides simple illustrations of a mother and son shopping in a market.

2. Familiarize yourself with the Said Webs process, which provides a method for students to think of alternatives for common words. Kathryn Laframboise, author of "Said Webs: Remedy for Tired Words," outlines the Said Web process as follows:

a) As a class, ask students to brainstorm words related to a selected word.

b) Agree upon the most common words and circle those words. These words form the list of start words.

c) Divide the class into groups of four to five students, and assign one colored marker to each group to designate each team's input and work.

d) Have students categorize the start words, linking together similar words using a web, where words in ovals are start words and words added to the web are placed in rectangles. Added words may include both synonyms and antonyms.

e) Ask teams to view the other group's webs and to add words to those webs in their assigned team color.

f) Display each team's chart and help students create a combined class web.

The Said Web requirement of requesting teams to rotate from web to web may be too complex for elementary-level students. A modified process for webbing may be more appropriate for this grade band and is recommended and presented in this lesson (see Session 3). However, you may choose to use the original version if you think it is appropriate for your class.

3. Print one copy of the Describe Your Apples handout and the Form Poem Handout for each group of three to four students. Print two copies of the blank Alphabet Organizer handout for each student. If you have classroom computers or a computer lab available, you may choose to have students use the online Alphabet Organizer or the Alphabet Organizer mobile app for the in-class activity and will need to make only one copy of the blank Alphabet Organizer handout for each student. If you choose to do this, you will need to reserve one 60-minute session (see Session 5) in the lab. You should bookmark the tool on the computers students will be using.

4. Print the Sample Grocery Adjectives Alphabet Organizer, the Lemon Web, and the Apple Web for your reference (see Sessions 2 and 3). You may choose to make these into transparencies or copy them onto chart paper to share with your students.

5. Access the ReadWriteThink Webbing Tool to familiarize yourself with how to create a simple web using circles. If you have classroom computers or a computer lab available, you may choose to have students use this tool when making their own webs. You will need to reserve one 60-minute session (see Session 3) in the lab. You should bookmark the tool on the computers students will be using.

6. Obtain copies of dictionaries and the Kingfisher First Thesaurus by George Beal (or other thesauri) for students to use. An online reference tool like Merriam-Webster Online can also be useful if you are having students work with computers.

7. Use the Reading Rainbow Book List website to select several picture books to be used by students during Session 6. Obtain copies of these books for students to use.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Increase knowledge by defining adjectives and synonyms

  • Demonstrate comprehension of adjectives and synonyms in a variety of ways—by using adjectives and synonyms to describe things that they see, by using alphabet organizers and webs to describe an object, and by identifying adjectives in a literary passage and replacing them with appropriate synonyms

  • Apply what they have learned about adjectives and synonyms by writing form poems

  • Practice working collaboratively to brainstorm and write their poems

Session 1: Introduce adjectives (45 minutes)

Adjectives and synonyms provide students with a variety of ways to express themselves both verbally and in writing. People, places, and things come alive when students are able to describe them using unique or "visual" words. Which sounds more interesting to you: "The bumpy moon is in the black sky" or "The cratered moon shines in the dark, onyx sky?" Dark and onyx are adjectives but are also synonyms for the word black. The second sentence provides richer details about the moon and the sky by using more vivid—and unexpected—descriptors.

1. Read Apples by Gail Gibbons aloud to the class. This book has minimal text but provides illustrations of various types of apples. Guide students to focus on the appearance of apples, both inside and out, as Gibbons has done throughout the book.

2. Divide the class into groups of three to four students. Give each group two apples of the same variety—one whole and one cut into enough pieces so that each team member gets one—and copies of the Describe Your Apples handout. Give them 15 minutes to brainstorm and record words that describe their apples.

3. Gather the entire class together and ask teams to share words from their lists. Descriptive words might include: red, green, round, shiny, waxy, bruised, ripe, speckled, spotted, or wet. Record the class list on a board or flipchart.

4. Explain to the class that they have created a list of words called adjectives to describe their apples. The list includes words that describe how the apples look, smell, feel and even taste.

5. Ask students to define adjective, working toward the definition that it is a word that describes a person, place, or thing (noun). Talk about why adjectives are important. Questions for discussion include:

  • How might adjectives be used in driving directions? (Take a right turn; follow the windy road for five miles; go through the flashing, yellow light; we're the second, blue house on the right.)

  • How might they be used in a recipe? (An apple pie recipe may include the following adjectives: one tablespoon of brown sugar, one tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, two cups of white flour, and a glass pie plate.)

6. Ask students to consider why adjectives are useful and helpful. What are some of their ideas? When do they use adjectives? Some ideas might include the following:

  • Choosing drinks: white or chocolate milk

  • Choosing breakfast: scrambled or fried eggs

  • Selecting a team during physical education: blue team or red team

  • Understanding weather and temperature: hot, cold, rainy, windy, snowy

  • Describing one's own feelings or state of being: tired, scared, angry, happy

Session 2: Alphabet Organizer project (30 minutes)

1. Read The Supermarket by Kathleen Krull or The Supermarket by Harlow Rockwell (see Preparation 1). As you read the book aloud, draw students' attentions to all the things found in a supermarket and how adjectives are used to describe them.

2. Give students a blank Alphabet Organizer handout and ask them, with the assistance of an adult, to visit their local grocery store during the next week. Instruct them to write an adjective in each box that describes an item found in the market. For example, in the Y box they might write "yellow bananas" and in the T box they might write "tangy tangerines." If you have chosen to make a transparency or chart of the Sample Grocery Adjectives Alphabet Organizer, show it to students as an example.

Tell students they should make sure to write both the alphabet adjective and the corresponding item as described above. (Note: You may choose to omit the letter x.)

Homework (due by Session 5): Complete the Alphabet Organizer.


Session 3: Said Web activity (60 minutes)

1. Model the creation of a simple web on the board using a different fruit as an example. Place the word lemon in the center and the descriptive words (i.e., bumpy, yellow, shiny, oval, and tangy) in circles branching from the center word. If you have chosen to make a transparency or chart of the Lemon Web, show it to students as an example containing first level, common words in blue circles and second level or more descriptive alternatives in green circles.

2. Ask students to define the word synonym working toward the following definition: a word having the same or nearly the same meaning as another word.

3. Using the class list of apple adjectives created in Session 1, ask students to identify several common words to describe apples. Common words may include the following: round, red, shiny, and green.

4. Regroup students into the teams from Session 1. Instruct them to create a web by adding adjectives that are synonyms for the common words they have used to describe apples.

5. Students should work on their webs either on paper or using the ReadWriteThink Webbing Tool (see Preparation 5). Encourage teams to use a dictionary or thesaurus to assist in building and expanding their webs.

6. Select several teams to share their webs with the class. Are there similarities among the first-level and second-level words chosen by teams? Did any teams come up with some unique alternative descriptors? Briefly discuss how common adjectives describe an object sufficiently, but often more descriptive alternatives provide richer details. These details help to enhance writing allowing readers to "see" what the author is describing. Refer to the Apple Web for additional suggestions if needed.

Session 4: Form poem activity (45 minutes)

1. Write the following poem included in article "Form Poems for Tired Words" by Terry Henkelman on the board:
So amusing
So comical
So humorous
So mirthful
So laughable
Sooo... funny
2. Review the words in the poem and point out how each one is a synonym for the adjective funny.

3. Model another form poem by selecting a word from the class list created during Session 1. Write the word on the board and solicit input from the class to complete the poem in the "So..." format. For example:
So spotted
So dotted
So freckled
So stained
Sooo... speckled
4. Have students work in pairs to develop synonyms for two more apple adjectives. Instruct students to write the two adjectives at the top of the Form Poem Handout. Provide students with thesauri to help them identify synonyms for the selected words.

5. Close this session by reading aloud Hairy, Scary, Ordinary: What Is an Adjective? by Brian P. Cleary. This book defines adjectives and includes numerous adjective examples. Work with students to select 10 adjectives from the book and list them on the board.

6. Provide additional practice writing form poems by having student pairs select two adjectives from the list to begin additional poems on the Form Poem Handout.

Session 5: Grocery store adjectives activity (60 minutes)

1. Group students in teams of three. Ask students to share their completed Alphabet Organizers. Provide each team with a blank Alphabet Organizer handout or access to the interactive Alphabet Organizer. Instruct teams to create an organizer that merges all of their ideas, choosing what they think are the best examples for each letter. Assign one student to be the recorder—either writing on the handout or typing into the computer. (Note: If students are working online, make sure they print out their organizers when they are complete.)

2. After teams have completed their organizers, provide each with a brown paper bag and the following instructions:

  • Select five items from the team-compiled organizer

  • Write the item names and corresponding adjectives on the front, back, or sides of the paper bag

  • Write a form poem for each selected adjective beneath the item heading

You might choose to provide the following example to demonstrate how to complete the assignment:
GREEN apple...
So chartreuse
So lime
So emerald
Sooo... green
If students complete the poems with time left over, you can give them time to illustrate their poems.

Session 6: Rewrite a literary passage (60 minutes)

Note: Before this session, allow students time to look at the picture books you have selected (see Preparation 7) and choose one that is interesting to them. Assign students partners based on their selections and make each pair photocopies of two pages from the book they have selected for them to rewrite. Pairs that have chosen the same book should be given different pages from that book to work on.

1. Distribute the photocopies and ask student teams to "rewrite" the section by selecting several adjectives to be changed. Students can use highlighters to identify the original adjective and then write a synonym for each highlighted word above the original.

2. Select several teams to share their work with the class. Ask one team member to read the original passage. Ask a second team member to read the revised passage. Make transparencies, if possible, to help students share their completed work more easily with others in the class. Questions for discussion include:

  • Are the original highlighted words adjectives?

  • Are the revised words both synonyms and adjectives?

  • Did the meaning of the passage change at all? How?

  • Why do students think the author chose the original words? When would the replacement words be more appropriate (e.g., if the reader is explaining the passage to a younger reader)?


  • Collect the team webs and photocopy them to create web packets for each team. Using components of each web, work with students to build a class web to display on the wall. The class web should consist of synonyms for common words. Instruct students to look through the packet choosing words that are very descriptive or unique. As a class, decide which of these words will be included. The synonyms selected may be words that do not initially come to mind when describing an apple. For example, students might typically describe an apple as red. However, maroon provides richer detail describing a shade of red.

  • Ask students to write a form poem using the word "not" before each adjective. This format provides a series of opposites or antonyms for a particular word.

  • Read aloud Many Luscious Lollipops: A Book About Adjectives by Ruth Heller (Scholastic, 1989). Review the role of adjectives—to be specific and describe things, places, people, thoughts, ideas, emotions, and details (such as number, color, or size). After reading and discussion, post a colorful poster or picture on a bulletin board, chalkboard, or computer monitor. Have small groups visit the poster or monitor to examine the details of the picture. As a class, brainstorm words to describe the picture.

  • Encourage some friendly competition—who (or which teams) can describe an object using the most adjectives and synonyms?

  • Read A is for Angry: An Animal and Adjective Alphabet by Sandra Boynton (Workman Publishing, 1983) to the class. Ask students to create their own alphabet books describing themselves using adjectives and synonyms. For example, A is for Ambitious, B is for Bubbly, and C is for Conscientious. Encourage students to be creative!

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Informally assess students' comprehension of adjectives and synonyms during class discussions and as you circulate while students are working in groups.

  • Collect and review the webs, organizers, and literary passage revisions. Are students using and identifying adjectives or are they using other parts of speech? Does students' work reflect an understanding of the material discussed?

  • Assess students' abilities to develop synonyms for adjectives as they complete webs, form poems, and literary passage revisions. Are students able to come up with several appropriate alternative words for a common adjective?

  • How well are students able to apply their knowledge of adjectives and synonyms to create the form poems? Did students correctly identify two words as adjectives to describe an apple? Do the five synonyms for each word have the same or similar meaning as the original word?

  • Assess students' abilities to work collaboratively by observing how team members contributed to and participated in each activity. Did every member offer suggestions and ideas? If someone emerged as a team leader, did that person encourage others to come up with ideas as well? Did teams engage in discussions to come to a consensus when completing activities? Observe and comment on the team dynamics and offer suggestions so that all members participate and are heard.

Peter M Weschler
K-12 Teacher
I am planning on using this lesson this week.
Peter M Weschler
K-12 Teacher
I am planning on using this lesson this week.
Peter M Weschler
K-12 Teacher
I am planning on using this lesson this week.

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