Adjectives give nouns color, size and spunk. In writing, they allow trees to be green, flowers to be fragrant and salsa to be mild, medium or spicy. It seems that some kids don’t use adjectives at all while others use too many. Yet, children’s books are a great way to help enforce the correct way to use adjectives. Here are a few tips on using picture books to teach adjectives.
Students should know that adjectives are describing words (words that describe a person, place or thing) that help bring a story to life. Two fun pictures book to introduce adjectives are Hairy, Scary, Ordinary: What Is an Adjective? and Quirky, Jerky, Extra Perky: More About Adjectives (Words Are Categorical) by Brian P. Cleary. These funny books have great pictures and easy rhyming text that appeals to kids, both young and old.
The Great Wall of Adjectives
One idea for a bulletin board is to make a “Great Wall of Adjectives.” Simply take a piece of light colored butcher paper and make a narrow rectangular bulletin board with a border. When you read a picture book together, you can ask kids to listen for one great adjective. At the end of the story, you can have them share it and write it on the “great wall of adjectives.” Kids can use the adjective wall during the year when writing stories, descriptive paragraphs and more.
Going on an Adjective Hunt
Another fun idea is for students to go on an adjective hunt. Working in pairs, children can pick out several age-appropriate (independent reading level) picture books and go on an adjective hunt. Give children index cards and a pencil so they can write down adjectives as they come across them in the story. To make things even more fun, you can give them small magnifying glasses and plastic adventure/safari hats.
Picture Books to Teach Adjectives
Elbert’s Bad Word by Audrey Wood is full of colorful adjectives. The book follows Elbert who hears a bad word, “grabs it,” and uses it. Eventually, Elbert seeks the help of a wizard gardener to help the bad word go away. The interesting part is, the bad word is never used, but a host of adjectives are used to describe it. After reading it, teachers and students can talk about the power of adjectives to “show not tell.”
The Crooked Apple Tree by Eric Houghton uses beautiful imagery to describe a tree in the different seasons. At the end of the book, kids can draw their own tree and then write a descriptive paragraph underneath.
Moosetache by Margie Palatini tells the story of a moose with a problematic “moosetache.” There are plenty of adjectives used in the story to describe the “moosetache.” Afterwards, kids can draw a person with a crazy hairdo/beard/mustache and write down a list of adjectives that could be used to describe it.
Pointing Out Adjective Placement
As you read, point out to kids that, typically, adjectives go before a noun but sometimes they come after. This is a lesson you might teach kids after they have a basic understanding of adjectives. For instance: The small, dark birds landed in the tree. or The birds, small and dark, landed in the tree. Students can use picture books to look for examples of adjectives that follow the noun.
Using picture books to teach adjectives can be a lot of fun for students!
More from Melissa:
Teaching Tips: Using Picture Books to Teach Figurative Language
Teaching Theme With Picture Books
Using Children’s Books to Teach Descriptive Writing