Rest in Peace . . . Dead Words

Aren’t some words in writing just dead? I know that we’ve all seen them. Words like run, said, happy, fun, mad; the list just goes on and on and on. These words need to be put to rest, but students choose to use them over and over again. Why? Well it’s probably because they can’t think of better words with which to replace them. Now this is where a classroom’s Dead Wall finds its perfect place. A Dead Wall can be a simple bulletin board, a section of wall space, or even a corner of the white board. Once you have your Dead Wall space, you’re on your way to giving your students a resource they will use time and time again. Now you’ll need to find all those dead words—you know, the words that you get tired of reading in paper after paper—and find a word or list of words that will SIZZLE in its place. Use a piece of gray construction paper, and cut it into a tombstone shape. Now all you have to do is write the “dead word” on the top in small print and write the SIZZLIN’ vocabulary word(s) that can replace it in large print. Post these tombstones on your Dead Wall, and you are well on your way to bringing student writing back to life. To even take it to the next step, you can do what a teacher friend of mine, Jon Spencer, did and host a classroom funeral for all of your dead words. Encourage students to wear all black and have them all gather around as you place each word to rest. You can even allow students to be creative and share their own eulogy for how they will miss using each of the words, and throw in a box of tissues for the extra effect. This will be a learning experience that your students will never ever forget.


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