Games to Help Students Write More Precisely and Concisely

I always seem to have students who believe that effective writing is verbose. If they exceed the page minimum, they expect a high grade.  These students tend to applaud themselves for the hard work on essay assignments, and it can be very difficult to convince them that their style of writing is actually quite lazy. As English teachers, we try to teach students that writing should be precise and concise. In order for students to accomplish this goal, they must have an extensive vocabulary and clear command of syntax. In short, we teach the adage:


Below are two games that can be used in the English classroom to emphasize these writing traits.  They can be used as a warm-up, brain break between lessons, after test activity, or any other time that works for your instruction.

Game 1: The Synonym Series


  • Before the game begins generate a list of precise, high level vocabulary words that your students would be familiar with. You need 1 word for every two students in your class.
  • Divide students into 2 groups.
  • Invite 1 student from each group to face off.
  • Show the first word to the students who are not in the face off. Make sure face-off students cannot see it.
  • Then, each side will take turns giving one word clues to their team member.  Clues can be synonyms or descriptors like: stronger, weaker, formal, informal, and the like. No rhyming, sound clues, or other shenanigans.
  • The first person who guesses the correct word scores a point for his or her team.

Example: Elated

Clues: Happy, Stronger, Stoked, Formal, Euphoric, Jubilant, Joyous, and so on until one member guesses correctly.

Benefits: This game enhances vocabulary by recognizing and using synonyms. It also helps students pay attention to connotation (stronger, weaker, angrier, etc) and audience (formal, informal, jargon, etc).

Game 2: Least Words

  • Before the game begins write long sentences that can be written more concisely.
  • Divide the class into 2-3 teams.
  • Project or write the first sentence on the board.
  • Have students re-write the sentence using more concise language.
  • The group that writes the shortest sentence, retaining the most precise language scores a point.

Example: The football game was seen by us as a way to suggest the fact that we are not as talented a school as our cross town rival.

Revisions would omit and reword phrases like “was seen by us as a way”, “the fact that”, and other overly wordy parts of the sentence.

Benefits: In this game the teacher overtly places value on concise sentences, reinforcing them for students. It also allows for several teachable moment grammar mini-lessons when evaluating which condensed sentence best retains the original meaning.

What strategies do you use to teach precise and concise language?  We’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.

Discovering Author’s Purpose and Writing with Purpose

It is important for students to understand an author’s purpose, but to also be able to write for a specific purpose–to inform, to persuade, or to entertain.  The following article helps students learn the differences between the purposes of writing (to inform, to entertain, to persuade) to be able to determine an author’s purpose, and to identify methods to fulfill a specific purpose in their own writing.

Purpose is the reason behind what you do.  When you work hard to get all your homework done and turned in on time, the purpose is to get a good grade in the class.  When you clean your room without asking, your purpose might be so that your mom will let you go out that night.

Writing has a purpose as well.  When an author writes something, there is a purpose behind what he or she writes.  The words he or she chooses, the arrangement of those words, and what he or she writes about, all has a purpose.  Purpose can usually be categorized into one of three categories: to entertain, to inform, and to persuade.  Sometimes authors have more than one reason for writing; and often, the purpose must be inferred from the text.

As the author of an essay, you will also have to write with a specific purpose in mind.  Not only must you be able to identify another author’s purpose for writing, you must also have a reason for your own writing. It is important to recognize that the specific words you choose and the way you choose to arrange those words on the page will have a significant impact on the purpose of the text.   Before you write, you will need to determine what you want your reader to do or feel after reading, if anything.  You must then choose the appropriate words and arrange those words in such a way to illicit a response from your reader. Read the passages below.

Tired of getting out of bed in the morning?  Pressing snooze way too many times?  Are you feeling groggy, sluggish, and irritable?  Then you need Vitajuice!  Vitajuice has 1000 times more vitamins and minerals that you will ever need in a day.  Just drink one Vitajuice in the morning, and you will be bright-eyed, yawn-free, and juiced-up all day!
Vitajuice, produced and distributed by the SL Martin Pharmaceutical company, has come under fire recently, as the Federal Drug Administration has challenged its claims on providing energy and nutrition.  Vitajuice spokesperson Marta Rickman stated in a press conference on Friday that “Vitajuice is made of powerful herbs, spices, and chemicals that we do not wish to disclose at this time.  If the FDA would like to come into our factories and investigate, then we are happy to have them as our guests.”  The FDA has declared that not enough testing has taken place for distribution of the juice, and that reports of side effects of vomiting, uncontrollable hair growth, and green-tinged skin are being investigated.
She sat quietly at her kitchen table.  Her skin tingled with the excitement.  The hair on the back of her neck rose as she thought about the step she was about to take.  Should she do it?  But what if all she has heard is true?  Would she be able to walk around all day like a zombie, or would she rather take the chance of looking like a monster?  Her hand reached out, trembling, then retracted quickly.  The bottle beckoned.  Her heart pounded in her chest, and she felt her throat close with fear.  Without another thought, she grabbed the bottle, opened it, and poured the Vitajuice down her throat.  Now all she could do was wait.

Each of these three passages all have a specific purpose. How do you know what the purpose of each passage is?  How can you tell?  There are some telling signs that readers can look for (and writers can use) to reveal purpose.

Persuasive writing wants to win the reader over to his or her way of thinking, or to ultimately make the reader take an action.  The best persuasive writers use words to make the reader want to jump up and do something.  Advertisements are aimed at persuading the audience to believe a claim, take an action, or as in the first passage, buy a product.  Such writing makes strong claims, and often causes the reader to have a feeling of skepticism—that feeling that something might be “too good to be true.”  Writing that is persuasive often uses vivid language, including the use of strong adjectives and verbs, backed up with influential—attention getting—statements.  The best persuasive writing–although one may feel the claims might too good to be true–still wants the product, or wants to take the action.

Informative writing gives the reader information, including rules, statistics, facts, history, examples, etc.  When writers inform, they seek to give the audience information about the topic that the reader may not know.  Unlike persuasive writing, which seeks to make you make a decision, informative writing gives the information in an unbiased manner. Informative writing includes textbooks, newspaper articles, “how-to” manuals, expository essays, and research papers.  Writing that seeks to inform is straightforward, factual, clear, and (should be!) unbiased.

Entertaining writing seeks to entertain the audience.  The writer does not particularly want to make you do anything, and the writer is not necessarily trying to teach you anything.  Simply, the author wants to you enjoy what he or she has written.  To entertain, writers use imagery, figurative language, anecdotes, descriptive writing, humor, suspense, or anything that is designed to capture the reader’s attention, stir emotions, and take the reader to another place in his or her imagination.


20 FREE Writing Prompts for Spring

I’m so excited that we’re on the verge of Spring!  Such a beautiful time!  To celebrate the spring, I have added another 101 seasonal writing prompts for grades 7-10…this time, for spring.  And for you, my loyal blog readers, I have included 20 free in this post!

Here is a sampling of 20 spring writing prompts from 101 Writing Prompts for Spring:


  1. Work at Home Mom’s Week is the first week of May. Mothers all over the world have either chosen to work outside the home, work inside the home, or be a stay at home mom and not work. Which is the best choice, in your opinion? Why? Give details and examples to support your response.
  2. March is Women’s History Month. Choose an important woman from history and do a research report on her life and accomplishments.
  3. April 7th is World Health Organization Day. What is the World Health Organization and what do they do?
  4. March is Music in Our Schools Month. In many schools, music programs are being cuts as budgets dwindle. Write an argumentative paper on why music programs should not be cut from schools.
  5. Explain and respond to the following quote by Robin Williams: “Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!'”
  6. National Defeat Diabetes Month is April.  What is diabetes and why are there two different types?  Why is diabetes such a dangerous disease?
  7. May is ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease Month.  Who was Lou Gehrig and why does he have a disease named after him?  What is the disease and how does it manifest itself?
  8. The second Sunday in May is Mother’s Day.  Many people have a special person other than a mother that they would like to celebrate.  Create a special day for that person who is special to you.  Write about why he or she should be celebrated each year.
  9. May is National Hamburger Month.  Imagine you have invented a new hamburger…what would it have on it?  Describe your burger in detail.
  10. You are completing the Spring cleaning your mom is making you do, when you come across a box you have never seen in your basement.  You wipe off the thick layer of dust, break open the lock, and open the box.  Describe what you see when you open the box.
  11. April is Grilled Cheese Month.  Describe in step-by-step format how to make a grilled cheese sandwich.
  12. Spring is a time for rebirth and change.  What three things would you most like to change in your life?
  13. Explain and respond to the following quote by Doug Larsen: Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush. 
  14. April is National Poetry Month in the United States.  Read, analyze, and interpret Elaine Equi’s poem “National Poetry Month.”  What is the tone of the poem?  What feelings are you left with by reading this poem?  Write your own ode to poetry.
  15. The first week of May is Teacher Appreciation Week.  Write a letter to a teacher you appreciate, then send it.
  16. Some say that after a rain, a rainbow appears, and at the end of the rainbow is a pot of gold.  Pretend that you found the end of a rainbow.  Write a story about your adventure to the end of a rainbow, what you saw along the way, and what you found at the end of the rainbow.
  17. April 22 is Earth Day.  Write a poem about the earth, saving the planet, going green, endangered species, global warming, or any other topic related to the Earth.
  18. Write a 10-line ode to a chocolate bunny.
  19. Pretend you are an Easter egg about to be colored.  How would you want to yourself to be decorated to best illustrate your personality and interests?  Be descriptive.
  20. April is Alcohol Awareness Month.  Research statistics of drunk driving and the effects of alcohol.  Create a campaign informing your classmates.

You can purchase 101 Writing Prompts for Spring, as well as 101 Writing Prompts for Winter, and 101 Writing Prompts for Fall on TPT for just $5 each!  (Of course, 101 Writing Prompts for Summer is coming soon!)