Language devices – emotive language

Writing for the purpose of expressing and supporting an opinion using persuasive devices.

How can I make you care about my topic?

The expression of human feelings, emotions, opinions and judgements is very rich and complex and involves delicate language choices. Children in Stage 3 need to investigate how vocabulary choices, including evaluative language can express shades of meaning, feeling and opinion. Words that express attitudes
can be ‘positive’ or ‘negative’.

Behaviour Positive (good) Negative (bad)
Expressing emotions (affect).
  • happy
  • happiness
  • happily
  • sad
  • sadness
  • sadly
Appreciating things (appreciation).
  • beautiful
  • beauty
  • ugly
  • ugliness
Judging behaviours (judgement).
  • clever
  • cleverness
  • cleverly
  • stupid
  • stupidity
  • stupidly

from A New Grammar Companion for Teachers Beverly Derewianka, Primary English Teaching Association 2011

General strategies

Demonstrate to students how they can make a collection of persuasive language or emotive words used in persuasive texts to keep as a resource for their writing in a journal.

Activities to support the strategy

Activity 1: collecting emotive words in context

Students can collect words in pairs from websites about current issues. Students can then prepare to teach the pronunciation and meaning of the words to other students. Words can be collated to add to class word walls or vocabulary journals. Students should be encouraged to keep a record of the word in the context of the sentence to assist with learning how to use the word appropriately.

Transcripts of the news reports from the Behind the News (ABCTV) are a good source of emotive language.

Example (comments section online)

"I think that the amount of plastic that is placed and found in the ocean is a disgrace. To think that people could be so cruel to our environment and our animals is truly awful. I think that life would be really great if we all used to eco friendly bags you can choose to buy at the shopping centre.
It is absolutely terrible to think that innocent marine life is dying due to humans throwing various plastic bits and pieces into their habitats. If it were those poor marine animals would we enjoy having humans ruin our lives just by their silly actions?"

This short text yields several emotive words that can then prompt brainstorming of synonyms:

  • disgrace
  • truly awful
  • absolutely terrible
  • innocent

Students can be shown how to form nouns from adjectives or vice versa and can write sentences in pairs using both forms of the word on sentence strips or mini whiteboards.

Adjective Noun
disgraceful      disgrace     
innocent      innocence     

Synonyms – (terrible, disastrous, disgraceful, atrocious, awful, shocking) can be used for word clines or semantic gradients.

Activity 2: ranking

Students could be given several persuasive comments in pairs and asked to rank them from most persuasive to least persuasive and discuss reasons for their choices.

Activity 3: make your own bingo

Students can select about ten items from a list of persuasive words provided by the teacher and write them down on a blank bingo board. The teacher reads out clues for the students to guess the words. Students cross off the word as they hear the meaning. For example, we use this adverb when we are very sure about something, it starts with d, it has four syllables and so on (definitely).

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