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Using Precise Language When Writing About Reading or When Writing in One’s Notebook

I conferred with one of my students during Reading Workshop today about the writing she was doing about her reading. I noticed the words “things” and “stuff” appearing. I showed her the poem I wrote earlier today in order to encourage her to use words like “things” and “stuff” only when it’s clear what those “things” are or what that “stuff” is. She agreed that the words “things” and “stuff” were usually pretty vague when she used them. So, here’s what she came up with regarding the use of more precise language (when she writes):

Instead of using things and stuff, I can use a more specific word.
• For instance, you can describe what it is. Instead of saying “to be better at stuff than her brother…” you can say “to be better at eating than her brother.”
• Another example: Instead of saying “she couldn’t do those kinds of things like Richie,” you can say, “she could eat rhubarb as much as Richie could because he could just keep going and going and going.”

Don’t you love the fact that she used an “I can” statement?

NOTE: The book she was talking about, above, was My Rotten Red-Headed Older Brother by Patricia Polacco.

Stacey Shubitz View All

I am a literacy consultant who has spent the past dozen years working with teachers to improve the teaching of writing in their classrooms. While I work with teachers and students in grades K-6, I'm a former fourth and fifth-grade teacher so I have a passion for working with upper elementary students.

I'm the author of Craft Moves (Stenhouse Publishers, 2016) and the co-author of Jump Into Writing (Zaner-Bloser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Day By Day (Stenhouse, 2010).

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