Know some kids who burst into the door with, “It was such a cool thing! I saw some great stuff!” Huh? No context, no referents?
For those children who tend to overuse vague words (stuff, guy, thingy, whatchamacallit), I use a number of activities to increase their awareness of the changes they need to make. I start with having them identify errors in my speech. I provide a list of ambiguous sentences like these:
I found it in the thing.
Where did you put my whatchamacallit?
She put the thingie in her backpack.
I need to buy a something-or-other.
I saw a guy put it in his locker.
What different reactions we might have to the first sentence if “it” is an ice cream bar in the freezer or “it” is a threatening note in my backpack. If your friend asks you if you want a “thingie,” you’d better know what that “thingie” is before you answer.
Next we create our own ambiguous sentences and discuss using “exact” or “specific” words as opposed to “vague” words.
I also use the visual above. Our homework is to listen to others and write down an example of another person using a vague word. This is also an opportunity to remind kids that no one likes to be corrected in front of others. Just discretely write it down (or dictate it into their phone). Now it’s your turn….how do you increase AWARENESS of vague words?