Word Choice in Writing

Contributor: Melissa LaRusso. Lesson ID: 10395

"I saw an owl." That's it? When you write, create a mental image for the reader. With a graphic organizer and online exercises, study some video readings and write your own personal narrative story!



English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Read this excerpt from Owl Moon written by Jane Yolen (below). Then, sketch a quick picture of what you are visualizing:

"It was late one winter night when Pa and I went owling. There was no wind. The trees stood as still as giant statues and the moon was so bright the sky seemed to shine."

Now look at the picture you drew.

  • What words and literary devices does the author use to create a mental image for the reader?

A word can inspire one thousand pictures

Authors carefully choose the words they use in their writing to create images for readers.

Just as there are many, many genres and sub-genres of books, there are just as many authors who write those books. Each author must choose his or her words carefully so they select the perfect imagery for their particular readers.

  • It would be silly for an author who writes scary vampire books to always use a positive, happy tone and uplifting vocabulary, wouldn't it?

Word choice can help set the tone and mood for writing. Now you will explore three popular picture books; as you do, pay careful attention to the word choice the authors use.

Before you begin, print a copy of the Word Choice in Writing Graphic Organizer, found in Downloadable Resources in the right-hand sidebar. Use this graphic organizer throughout the lesson. This resource includes graphic organizers to complete the activities in this lesson.

Each book you read in this lesson will have a corresponding graphic organizer for you to complete. This resource will help guide your word choice in writing a personal narrative.

In this lesson, you will use literary devices like similes and metaphors to enhance your writing. You will then use rich vocabulary and strong adverbs, adjectives, and verbs to improve your written expression.

Exploring word choice in picture books

Using literary devices

The first picture book you will look at is Owl Moon by Jane Yolen (below). This picture book is full of literary devices (refer to the Using Literary Devices in the Word Choice in Writing Graphic Organizer). These literary devices create descriptive language to tell the story of a girl and her father on a search for a Great Horned Owl.

Watch the video and pause it on page two. Jot down the literary devices you hear as the author shares her story. Share some of your thoughts with your parent or teacher when you have finished listening to the book.

  • How does this make you feel?
  • Does this remind you of anything?
  • Would you change any of the author's choices of words to this point?
  • Why or why not?

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen: Children's Books Read Aloud on Once Upon A Story:

Next, continue playing the video to the end.

  • How does the author use literary devices and descriptive or rich language to better describe the characters, setting, and events?
  • Do any of the story elements, such as plot, character(s), or setting stand out in your mind?
  • What words or literary devices did the author use to help create any specific pictures in your mind?
  • Talk about how the words the author chose enhanced the reader's mental image of what is happening.

Temporal or time and order words used in literature

Temporal words are used in writing to put events in order.

Refer to the Temporal or Time and Order Words Used in Literature in the Word Choice in Writing Graphic Organizer packet. This graphic organizer provides examples of time order words.

Now watch My Rotten Red Headed Older Brother, by Patricia Polacco (below). Pay close attention for the temporal words used in this story. Place a check mark next to the temporal words in the graphic organizer as you hear them in the story.

After listening to the story, reflect on the use of temporal words.

  • Why do you think an author might use words like these in a story?
  • How do they help tell the story?
  • How could words like these help a reader make better sense of the story?

  •  Now that you have heard examples of temporal words, how do you think they are useful in your life?

Choosing effective words to enhance writing

The last book you will read in this lesson is Stellaluna by Janell Cannon (below).

In this book, the author uses powerful adjectives, adverbs, and verbs to describe characters, settings, and events. As you listen to this story, you will notice the rich language that fills each page and paints vivid, life-like pictures for the reader.

Use the Choosing Effective Words to Enhance Writing included in the Word Choice in Writing Graphic Organizer to write down the adjectives, adverbs, and verbs used in this book. Write down at least five words in each section.

You will notice there are three graphic organizers in this section. Choose the one that is a good fit for you.

The first one is blank and allows you to write down the interesting adverbs, adjectives, and verbs you hear in the book. The second option gives you some prompts to look for when reading the book.

Now, it's time to move on to the Got It? section to answer some questions that will help you write your own personal narrative!

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