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Teaching tips & resources


How to Build a Word Bank for Writing

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A child with a limited vocabulary will find writing particularly challenging. Building a word bank with your child before they begin writing about a topic is one helpful prewriting activity that increases the output of sensory description and higher-level vocabulary. 

Start by creating four columns on a sheet of paper and label them Adjectives, Nouns Adverbs, and Verbs.  

Using the internet or a nonfiction book about the selected topic, help your child find or think of interesting words to list in each category. While a Google search will likely return many informative articles about the topic, these may be beyond your child’s reading level. If so, online word lists organized around themes or topics can be useful. Try or’s Vocabulary Word Lists (Word Banks) by Theme. Both sites provide access to alphabetized word lists on a wide variety of topics from Shakespeare to money to animal habitats. If you are using a nonfiction book, the glossary and index are great places to find topic- or content-specific terms.


When adding terms to a word bank, keep in mind the following tips for each part of speech:

  • Nouns: Always list nouns first. Be sure your child lists specific, concrete nouns and help them generate synonyms for frequently used words related to the topic.
  • Adjectives: Split the column into six sections to differentiate characteristics and the five sensory adjectives (sight adjectives, sound adjectives, smell, touch, and taste).
  • Adverbs: Show your child how to turn adjectives into adverbs by simply adding the suffix –ly.
  • Verbs: Ensure your child includes power verbs to help a reader vividly picture the action. Always avoid dead verbs.

Ready to Write

Your child is now ready to put their word bank to use! Encourage them to reference it as they prewrite or draft sentences. Alternatively, use it to revise, or improve, boring sentences once your child is finished. Keep these word banks in a binder to create a writing topic dictionary for future assignments.

Repeatedly building word banks before writing will expose your young writer to a wealth of words while enhancing their word choice and boosting writing confidence.