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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | Using The Emotional Thesaurus in a Classroom

Using The Emotional Thesaurus in a Classroom

Teaching is sometimes like that game where you throw Velcro balls at a Velcro target. Sometimes the ball sticks, and sometimes it doesn’t.  Teaching anythingin the last week of the school year is dicey, and so when I decided to bring The Emotion Thesaurus by AngelaAckerman and Becca Puglisi on the fourth-to-the-last day of school and share it with my writing class, I wasn’t expecting much.
However, my fifth grade students thought it was a really neat idea, and they loved hearing me list the physical descriptions that went with certain emotions.  I made the thesaurus accessible and asked them to write a confrontational scene between two characters.  They were to include dialogue and physical description.
Some of the Velcro balls fell to the ground.  One student produced something that made me think he must have been in the bathroom when I gave the instructions.  Others made a half-hearted attempt and wrote a scene that used one description taken from the thesaurus. (This is called humoring the teacher and waiting for the clock to run out.)
But here’s a Velcro ball that not only stuck – it landed dead center in the bull’s eye.  This scene was written by Andy, a fifth grade boy, using The Emotion Thesaurus – and Andy did something pretty rare: He made me feel proud on the fourth-to-the-last day of school.
“Snap!” goes Will’s knuckles.
Man, are my muscles tightening.  Now he looks like he’s going to punch me.  I say, “What did I do to you?”
Will says, “You lied to me about something really important.”
Now I’m sweating like crazy and shaking. He is balling up his hand into a fist, ready to punch me.  Trembling, I say, “What are you going to do to me?”
With strength in his voice, he says, “You don’t want to know what I’m going to do to you.”  I flinch when he cracks his neck.  Now I’m looking for an escape.  Will says, “There is no escape for you.”
Now I’m blinking like a mad man who has just lost. I plead, “Please have mercy on me, Will.”
Will angrily says, “Why did you lie to me?”
I say weakly, “Because if you knew the truth, you would have got yourself killed.”

OMG – right?  Not only did Andy know how to use the thesaurus, he knew how to leave his readers hanging! 
I can’t wait to use The Emotion Thesaurus next year, starting from the beginning of the year when the kids are fresh.  And I’m definitely hanging onto Andy’s scene as an example!
Do you have YOUR copy of The Emotion Thesaurus?

24 Responses to Using The Emotional Thesaurus in a Classroom

  1. Linda G. says:

    Wow! Looks to me like Andy is a natural. Great joby, Andy!

    And kudos to his teacher, too. 🙂

  2. Go, Andy! As a former educator, I am SO excited to see The Emotion Thesaurus being used in the classroom. And it looks like Andy’s totally getting a feel for how to express emotion with a variety of cues. Thank you, Dianne, for being so brave during the last week of school, lol.


  3. Julie Dao says:

    I’ve heard about this on several other blogs! I think it’s fantastic. I’m always in need of a plain old thesaurus when I write, so this will be another handy resource.

  4. That is so awesome. Way to go, Andy!

  5. I went to Barnes and Noble intending to leave with a copy, but I only had enough money to buy one of my favorite author’s newest books. 🙁

    Maybe next time I get $20?

  6. That kid’s writing is amazing!! I knew you were a teacher but didn’t know fifth grade.

    (whispers) I have a 5th grader in the fall. Is it going to be dicey??

  7. WOW! Bet you’d like to clone that kid, huh? Or at least, his attitude and aptitude. And no, I don’t have that book yet, but I’m definitely gonna buy it. I’ll check out B&N tomorrow.

    Great to be back visiting some of my favorite blogs again. Will eeeeease into the blogosphere today, and start posting again on Wednesday. Recess is over.

  8. JEM says:

    That must be amazing to watch someone’s talents grow through your class. I haven’t gotten my copy yet, but I’m on it!

  9. SA Larsenッ says:

    You’ve got some pretty bright students! I do have my copy, and I love it.

  10. Pk Hrezo says:

    Wow that’s great! You must feel so proud! !!

  11. That is SO awesome! Go, Andy! I could totally see what he was doing because I’m doing the same thing. =D

  12. DL Hammons says:

    I have that in my Amazon shopping cart, just haven’t pushed the button yet.

    Hats off to Andy, and a pat on the back to you! 🙂

  13. mshatch says:

    wow, that was awesome. Lucky Andy had a teacher like you to encourage him, eh?

  14. How awesome! I do have my copy. 🙂

  15. I think that is great that you are using the thesaurus in your classroom. I hope a lot of teachers decide to do that.

    I’ve got an e-book copy of the thesaurus, but am planning on getting a print copy of it, so I can have both.

  16. Mina Burrows says:

    Love this. I don’t have one yet, but will rectify that shortly. 🙂

  17. *Go Andy GO* What a perfect example of how to use this wonderful resource!!!!

  18. Sarah says:

    WHOA. This is so cool. Andy has some talent. But also–it really shows how this book can be useful to a very broad population. I know they learned more than just lessons about writing. It helps create a mindfulness about the somatic signs of emotion. Yay!

  19. I love love love my copy (the hard copy). I ordered it the day it came out even though Angela had already given me the PDF version because I had beta read it.

    I’m looking forward to their next thesaurus. It’s going to be great too. 😀

  20. Rachel says:

    Hi Dianne- new follower here.

    I love this post. I have a ton of friends who just recently graduated as educators and I think this shows that not only are good teachers amazing, so are amazingly awesome (text)books! Thanks for sharing Andy’s piece. I loved it.

  21. Hi Dianne:
    I found your blog thanks to Becca and Angela.
    Tell Andy he rocks. I can`t believe he`s only in grade five.
    I just ordered my copy and can`t wait for it to arrive.

  22. kittyb78 says:

    Excellent post!

    I can’t express how useful this book is, or how grateful I am that it’s available. 🙂

  23. Thanks so much for all the kind words, everyone. For those of you who’ve bought a copy of the Emotion Thesaurus, I hope it helps your work as much as it has helped Andy’s :). And thank you, Dianne, for all that you do for kids and for posting about your Emotion Thesaurus lesson.


  24. Robin says:

    I was scrolling through your old blogs and found this gem. Wow. That kid is seriously talented. How does it feel helping someone achieve their potential????