How to teach Adjectives to Children

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Descriptor words are an element of the English language that help children describe the world around them. It helps them communicate better and expands their vocabulary. One very important descriptor word category is the Adjective. Adjectives are words that describe people, places and things, otherwise known as nouns.  For example: BIG table, RED shirt, WARM afternoon, FRAGRANT flowers, GURGLING child etc. Those are words that appeal to the senses of sight, smell, touch, taste and sound.

Introducing the Idea of an adjective:

You can play a little game with your child. Tie your child’s eyes with a handkerchief. Place an everyday object in their hand and have them describe it just by touching it. Next you can hold up a fruit to their nose and have them guess what it is just by smelling it. Give them a stuffed toy and have them describe the feeling of touching it with their eyes closed.

As your child describes each object using words, write the adjectives down. You can cue your child by asking them questions like, how does it feel? How does it smell? Now have them take off their blindfold and show them the objects and the adjectives. This would be an experiential way of learning instead of being taught as definition “An adjective is a word that describes a noun”

Telling Sentences vs showing sentences

A great way to demonstrate using adjectives is to show them the difference between telling sentences and showing sentences.

Example #1:

Telling sentence: My mom bought me a nice table.

Showing sentence: My mom bought me a bright red table with white flowers painted on it.

As you can see, in the first sentence, the word “nice” can be interpreted by many people in many ways. However, in a showing sentence, when you use adjectives to describe the noun, the object literally can be visualised by the reader /listener.

 Example #2:

Telling Sentence: I got a lovely perfume for my birthday.

Showing Sentence: I got a Jasmine scented perfume for my birthday.

In the first sentence, the word lovely can mean anything. However, when you add the adjectives, the listener or reader understands exactly what you are talking about. Adjectives help you not to just tell someone something but actually show them with words.

Once your child has understood what an adjective is, next you can read out sentences from their story books and have them point out or pick out the adjectives in those sentences. You can also play a few games that reinforce the concept.

Adjective Building

Just like word building, you can also play the game of Adjective Building. You start by saying an adjective, and then have your child come up with an adjective that starts with the last letter of your adjective.

Game ‘I spy’

This is a lovely game to play with your child. You look around the room and find an object that you can describe with adjectives. You say “I spy with my little eye, something _______ and __________ (It could be soft and purple (cushion) or brown and round (table)). This demonstrates how you use adjectives to describe an object.

Magazine Fun:

Pick up a ‘child friendly’ magazine and flip through the pages with your child. Have your child describe the bright pictures, the people in it, animals, things etc. Have them use as many descriptive words as possible.

Once your child has mastered what an adjective means, they can start putting together many adjectives for one object. For older children, you can also teach them the particular order in which adjectives have to be written. For example:

WRONG: The yellow big beach shiny ball

CORRECT: Big shiny yellow beach ball

Adjectives have to be arranged in the sequence of Size, texture, colour and type for them to make sense.

Adjectives describe the quality of any person or object and make language more colourful and appealing. They help you paint a picture with your words for your audience and help you articulate your ideas and thoughts better. They can change the tone of a sentence or even the meaning of it and therefore is one of the most fundamental building blocks in good communication.

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