Teaching Adjectives or How to Teach Adjectives in a Nutshell

To teach adjectives, take your students through the following five stages of learning.

  1. Learn what adjectives are.
  2. Identify and Use adjectives in simple sentences
  3. Experiment, manipulate and play with adjectives to develop personal reference points and connections.
  4. Create lists and banks of adjectives to gain an understanding and  sense of their scope .
  5. Use adjectives in writing.


1. Learn What Adjectives Are

Explain what adjectives are to your students.

You can find a handy "What is an Adjective" poster here and on the same page you will find eight,  "What is an adjective?" activities.


2. Identify and Use Adjectives in Simple Sentences

Use worksheets and classroom activities to give your students opportunities to identify and use adjectives in simple sentences.  

Here are six adjective worksheets and three adjective activity ideas.


3. Experiment and Play with Adjectives

Give your students opportunities to experiment, manipulate and play with adjectives so that they can develop personal reference points and connections.  

Here are twelve open-ended adjective activity ideas.

4. Create Lists and Banks of Adjectives

Help your students create lists and banks of adjectives to gain an understanding and sense of their scope.  

Here are four activity ideas to do that.

Get out the thesauruses and begin exploring how to use them - search for words as a class, in small groups and as individuals.

Students can use the "My List of Brilliant Adjectives" printable (below) to create their own  list of adjectives.

The whole class can build a giant wall of adjectives.

Each student can  create a unique adjective list that expands on one subject.  The finished lists can be put on the classroom wall for the class to use as a reference.  

There are two examples below, "55 Adjectives to use Instead of Bad, and "Personality Adjectives"  Other possibilities are: nice, angry, happy, pretty, handsome, scary, unhappy, cold, wet, old, young, small, big, fast, slow, mean and kind.


5. Start Using Adjectives in Writing

After all that, your students should be ready to use adjectives in their own writing.

If they are reticent, write a simple paragraph, without adjectives, on the board.  Ask your students  to write it again, with adjectives.

A twist on this is to write a paragraph, from a book the class is reading, on the board.  Omit the adjectives.  Ask your students  to write it again, with adjectives.  When they are done, read the paragraph from the book.


A Final Thought

When you are teaching adjectives, your initial goal is that  your students can use adjectives in their writing.  

Over time, many of your students will move past this initial stage and begin using adjectives with precision.

When that happens, you can help them explore  C.S.Lewis's wonderful suggestion.

“In writing. Don't use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing.  I mean, instead of telling us a thing was "terrible," describe it so that we'll be terrified. Don't say it was "delightful"; make us say "delightful" when we've read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, "Please will you do my job for me."  

C.S. Lewis

I love that idea.   It is such a practical way to guide your students to use adjectives to powerfully sketch out the imagery of their story. 

It takes your students from writing sentences like,

"The ugly toad jumped onto the wet rock" to writing

"The muddy, wart-covered toad jumped onto the glistening rock.  

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