Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dead Words

This is one of my favorite lessons for October! To practice using a thesaurus and improving word choice in our writings, my class chooses words to bury. These ‘dead words’ are either over used words or weak words. First, my class brainstorms words that we use too often or that aren’t very strong at getting our thoughts across to the reader. I have a container that holds dead words written on slips of paper. The students reach in and pick a word. They have to think of how they use this word: is it a verb, an adjective, or an adverb. Then, they use the classroom thesauruses to look it up. I require 12 alternatives, and this makes the task more challenging, as most of the words do not have that many substitutions in our thesauruses. Thus, the students often get on the classroom computers to look up other synonyms, or they brainstorm with other students. Once they have their list, they create gravestones. Once the gravestones are ready, we hold a ceremony to say goodbye to the dead words and bury them. The posters, then, hang where everyone can read them (and help create a bit of a Halloween mood too, I might add), but most importantly, when we write the students will point out to each other (and me) when a dead word is used, even after the gravestones are removed.


  1. I love this idea and hope I will remember to pull it out of the bag next Halloween!

  2. Thanks! It is just my little way of slipping some Halloween fun into our lessons.

  3. Hi-

    I absolutely LOVE this idea. I think that it is a great Halloween activity that can carry through the entire year as your students are reminded of the dead (and buried) words. LOVE IT and thanks for sharing!

    -Damien from

  4. I teach science, but I'd love to just make one that says "IDK" is a 'dead word' in my room! Stop putting that on your paper! I guess you could do "cytoplast" and similar made up words. Maybe phrases such as "My theory is..." should be a dead phrase in a science classroom, because it is misusing the word.

  5. Hi,

    I'm an EFL teacher in Taiwan. I just saw your and really love this great idea!! Actually, me and my friends really enjoy reading your blog and appreciating your creative teaching ideas. I am wondering if it is welcome that I share this “Dead Words" idea on my facebook page with a photo and a direct link to your blog with other EFL teachers?? It will certainly inspire most of them!


  6. I'm also an ESL teacher... But I'm currently living in South Korea, teaching at a girl's middle school.

    They have pretty low level English abilities and I am so grateful for all of the ideas you posted here! I will definitely be modifying some of them for my classroom.

    Thanks so much,

  7. This is great! A good book to introduce this lesson would be meet the dullards