Eliminating Vague Words & Pronouns

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SWBAT locate vague words and pronouns, then replace them with more specific word choice.

Big Idea

Sick of reading the words they, it, and things? Teach students to use these words sparingly.

Reading Log Check-In & Silent Reading

15 minutes

Whenever possible, I begin my lessons with silent, independent reading. During this time, I actively monitor their reading progress by checking their out-of-class reading logs and engaging in reading conferences that cover a variety of topics.

To find ways to enact this section, please see my strategy folder.

Book Interviews

15 minutes

Sometimes non-fiction writing can get tiresome and dry. When I notice this taking place, I like to spend a little bit of time having the kids focus on their independent reading. One way to do this would be through book interviews. Please look at this lesson for more in depth information on book interviews.

Book interviews can take thirty minutes, or they can take five. If you ever have an extra chunk of time, they are a great fall back. Here is a great recording sheet that students can use to track information.

Notetaking: What's a pronoun?

15 minutes

I have the kids take the following notes in their composition notebooks, in the all together note section.

We discuss the definition of a pronoun, and I ask if students can put this into their own words. We basically determine that pronouns are filler words that stand if for more specific nouns. We brainstorm a list of possible pronouns.

Then, I pose the question,

What are some possible problems with using pronouns?

I also write this question on the board. I let kids talk at their tables until they generate responses to these questions. Ultimately, its important to remind kids that there is a downside to pronouns: they can be vague, repetitive, and confusing. The positives are, of course, they shorten sentences and can make them less repetitive.

Finding and Fixing Vague Pronouns

30 minutes

I pass back drafts to students with feedback, or ways in which students can improve their pieces. Often, I'll pass back drafts on a schedule. I may get ten a day back to one class, I may get five. I take time to answer any questions students may have about feedback during independent work time, but I ask students to wait until I've gone over instructions pertaining to that lesson, before I discuss feedback. Often, my feedback will say things like, make sure you listen carefully during today's lesson, you have a few paragraphs that feature vague pronouns.

Once the drafts are passed back, I ask all students to secure a highlighter and highlight all pronouns. The first step is making sure students can locate and find their pronouns. Usually, I'll keep the giant list of common pronouns up, but sometimes, I may have to pair this list down for developing writers. I always start with telling students to hunt for the pronoun they, because it is a common pronoun that reappears in argument writing. However, you can use this lesson with any piece of informative writing.

After students find pronouns, I ask them to do a proofread, paying special attention to the pronoun usage. Are there any pronouns that seem repetitive or vague? Did you introduce all people or things, before you used a pronoun? I give them time to plug their ears and focus on their drafts. Here is a sample of a student who found her pronouns and is working on fixing vague language.

In this video, you'll see a student explaining why she replaced her pronoun. She went through a couple of stages of edits. She first changed her pronoun to people, realizing this was still a vague noun, she switched yet again to teacher.