Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Word Choice and Compliments

Uniquely Your Child

Each week in my class we have a student who is the "Uniquely You" student of the week.  We take time during the week to focus on what makes that child unique and special.  I ask the parents to write a letter to the class that describes how special their child is.  Over the years parents have written beautiful letters, poems and even created videos to share with the class.  The Uniquely You student always squirms a little while the letter is read or the video played, but they always have a big smile on their faces.  I've asked several classes over the years, once everyone had gone, "Should I do this again next year, or is it too embarrassing?" Overwhelmingly they always shout that they LOVE having their parents write a letter and I should DEFINITELY do it again next year.  

Uniquely our Classmate

In addition to the parent letter, the Uniquely You student fills out a little poster about them self and brings in a few items for show and tell.  Once they have shared about themselves and answered a few questions the rest of the class goes back to their desks and writes letters to the special student.  The letters are very formulaic and always read like this.  

Dear Lily,
You are unique because __________.
You and I are the same because __________.
Your Friend,

We focus throughout the year on finding the ways that people are the same.  How are we like each other more than how we are different.  I then take all of the letters, the poster and the parent's letter and put them together in a book for each child.  The cover of the book is a wordle about the child, using describing words that their classmates brainstormed.  (If you don't know what a wordle is, check out the image at the top of this post.)

Uniquely Used Words

I also use this assignment as an opportunity to talk about word choice.  It is very easy for students to write the same sentence over and over again throughout the year if they are not directed to dig deeper. My favorite cop out sentence is "You are unique because you are a girl."  or "You and I are the same because we are both boys."  :-) Instead we talk about choosing PRECISE words to describe our classmates.  Instead of "nice" maybe our friend is caring, helpful or generous.  One of the tools that I give my students to help with this is a Thesaurus Word Wall.  

Each poster is like a thesaurus page with synonyms for a "boring" word listed. 

The quality of student word choice has grown tremendously in my classroom since we started using these.  I love watching them during other writing times, as they turn their heads to stare at the wall or even get out of their seats for a closer look.

I've even reworked these posters into smaller formats so that students can use them as a small flip chart, or even individual thesaurus's.

if you're interested in using these Thesaurus's with your own students, check them out on Teachers Pay Teachers.

The Uniquely You books we create are treasured by the students and their parents.  They are a special way to grow student self esteem as well as writing skills.


  1. One of my favorite keepsakes from elementary school so far. I love this project, Amy. Such a gift, thank you!!

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