Too many students overuse the same words again and again. This is primarily because their vocabulary is limited. This is especially evident with English language learners. They do not have a reservoir of words from which to choose. Doing this activity not only enables them to develop that reservoir for writing purposes, but also helps their reading ability as well. One of the many things that I have the students self-check in their writing is for repetition of words or phrases. I have them volunteer to put their writing composition on the projection unit. I read them aloud and ask the students to notice if any particular word is being used too often. For example, the words may be simple like “and” or a phrase such as “and then I went”. Once they point out the repeated word or phrase, we actually circle these and count how many times the word or phrase was used. Another self-check we do is for use of overused words such as bad and good and scared and pretty. We circle these, and I have the students use their personal thesauruses to find synonyms for them.
The real value of this activity becomes evident when all of the completed pages are put on display in the halls outside the classroom. This helps the entire class cluster the meaning of the ten synonyms. The students make the connection between these synonyms and the original word they were given, a word they should already know.