WOW Words!

Today author A. LaFaye took us through an exercise on WOW Words. What is a WOW Word, you ask? Words that appeal to the senses. They should be concrete and have a unique quality.

Like pifflesquat. Or acrobat. Or rhinoceros. Or fluttered. Or mesmerized.

WOW Words energize writing. They are great to use in poetry and wonderful for prose. Writers, of course, need to surround themselves with WOW Words. To collect them like dazzling jewels to make their stories sparkle.

Teachers in the classroom can help students recognize and utilize WOW Words. Ms. LaFaye suggested creating a funky jar of WOW Words which the students can draw from. She recommended introducing this topic over a five day period. At the start of the instruction, have students select 5 WOW Words and then use them in a poem or a short story. On the next day, the students may only draw out 4 WOW Words and must provide the additional word themselves. On the third day, they select 3 words and provide 2 of their own. On the fourth day, they select 2 words and provide 3 of their own. And on the fifth day, they can only select one WOW Word or perhaps even challenge them to provide all 5 WOW Words themselves.

After each day’s session, the teacher can collect the new WOW Words—written on index cards—then discuss with the class some of the new words and why they work. The teacher can add these words to the WOW jar for future writing exercises.

Here are a few highlights from Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s presentation on writing nonfiction.

It doesn’t have to be written in chronological order.
It needs to have rising and falling action just as fiction does.
Too much information shouldn’t be given at once.

Ms. Bartoletti showed us a page from her book, BLACK POTATOES: THE STORY OF THE GREAT IRISH FAMINE. She pointed out the 8 literary devices she used to make the material more appealing:

SETTING (quickly established)
SCENE (a specific instance)
CHARACTERS (quickly drawn so the reader can identify)
DIALOG (which can NEVER be made up in nonfiction)
PLOT (rising and falling action)
NARRATION (mixed in with the showing)
VIVID WRITING (active verbs, sensory words)

Be sure to tune back in here because Nikki Grimes comes tomorrow to share her expertise with us. I can’t wait!

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