My life is full of lists. I don't write grocery lists or "to do" lists...I should! Instead I make word lists. I have lists of words that show. A thesaurus just isn't enough for me. I take a word like fun and write at the top of a page in my notebook. Each time I think of another word that shows fun, I add it to my list. For example, on my fun word page, I paint pictures with words like: hilarious, jolly, playful, escapades, a riot, chortle, just for kicks, make merry, giddy...you get the idea. Every time I think of a word that would fall into that category, I add it to my fun word page. Actually, come to think of it, I should write a thesaurus for writers!
Lists are important for writers, teachers, parents and students. If you are a classroom teacher or parent, there's nothing more useful and fun than having your kids create lists for a reason. Since we're in the midst of winter, just think of the lists your kids could develop.
Here's an idea for you that I use all the time. First of all, have another hearty conversation with your kids about winter (or whatever topic you plan to write about). Lively conversations make for colorful writing.
Ask your kids to start a list of winter words. Ask them to start another list of cold words. Let them keep their lists in their desks. That way, new words can be added as they come to mind.
After a week or so has passed, ask your students to write a sentence or paragraph about winter using words from both lists. No matter how old they are, they will begin to write in similes without even thinking.
Let them share their sentences out loud. You should be hearing things like: Today was as cold as the ice cube is my freezer. Playing with lists and words works. It makes writing fun. It makes writing carefree (I got that from my own FUN list!)
A teacher (from one of the classrooms I visited last year) told me that lists had made a difference in her student's writing. One of her students had to write a letter to another student as a form of apology. Her teacher said that her letter read: "I was as mad as a tornado blowing my house down when you...." How's that for colorful writing?