- Encourage students to examine verb choice in novels, poems, picture books, and informational texts. I choose existing mentor texts and rewrite excerpts using “common verbs” (or, as Krasner would call them, place holders). Students are then challenged to replace these with more precise or colorful verbs.
- Direct your students to consider verb choice in their own writing, and work to find action words that are more exact. As a start, outlaw there is, there are, there were, there was phrases. A better alternative always exists. As do exceptions. Remember the first line of Holes?
- Teach children how to use a print thesaurus or online reference source (such as the Merriam Webster dictionary or Wordnik) for assistance in locating more exact expressions.
The term includes (but isn't limited to) puns, invented words, allusions, idioms, metaphors, similes, hyperbole, onomatopoeia, and alliteration. (A good deal of the text discusses sentence structure, which is key to complex and elaborated writing as defined by the Common Core standards).
While at first these devices might seem like window dressing, realize this: your best readers can recognize these devices (even if not by name) and understand them in texts, which leads to improved comprehension. Therefore, giving students practice with literary devices in writing will not only make them better writers, but better readers as well.
Among a ton of other issues in this book, Fletcher discusses the need for writing teachers and student writers to switch from the what (subject/meaning) to the how (language), and he follows up with many ways to make this important distinction. And to prove his point, the author provides this lovely extended metaphor:
In another section called Shimmering Sentences by Other Writers, he talks about how's he fascinated by writers who violate common ideas about usage, and get away with it. Not just get away with it, but produce stronger writing as a result! See Breaking All the Rules of Writing at my How to Teach a Novel site which discusses how author Andrew Clements does exactly that.
If you still think that the books' about "play" and not about "practice," consider what not just Ralph Fletcher, but other experts, had to say: