An abstract noun refers to a state, concept or emotion that cannot be perceived by any of the five senses. If you want your students to be able to identify them, they need to spend time playing with them. Here are 7 classroom activities that will allow your students to explore and manipulate abstract nouns.
Write 10 on the board and ask one or two students at a time to come forward and play with them. To add variety, you can show the word to the students up front and ask the class to guess what it is. Here are 10 words you could use: anger, fear, love, jealousy, joy, sorrow, wealth, poverty, marriage and slavery.
Write abstract nouns on the board and ask your students to think of nouns with opposite meanings. Here are 10 words you could use: confidence, stupidity, reason, pride, beauty, peace, crime, curiosity, laughter and happiness.
Write 3 headings on the board: feelings, ideas and qualities. Challenge your students to find abstract nouns in each heading. This activity works particularly well when groups are competing with each other – give them 30 minutes and a large piece of poster paper to write the list.
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Many of the abstract nouns refer to emotions. Challenge your students to think about the comparison between happiness and unhappiness. Let them think for a few minutes on their own and then ask them to look up the words in a thesaurus. They should find words such as joy, happiness, contentment, satisfaction, excitement, joy, laughter, delight, satisfaction, enjoyment and laughter that indicate happiness, while sadness, disappointment, pain, depression and doom indicate unhappiness. To extend the activity, give each student a word to write down in a sentence and share with the class.
Write sentences that combine abstract nouns with concrete words. For example, a kindred spirit is like a night light. Ask your students to write or discuss why this is the case. They might suggest that and makes you feel safe, helps you see obstacles, needs something to feed on, doesn’t cost much, and comes in all different forms. You could try: isolation is like a cheese pizza, happiness is like a new book or freedom is like a purple frog.
Write them on sticky notes and distribute them to groups of students. Ask each group to post their notes in an appropriate place in the classroom. This activity works well if children have time to explain to the class why they put the notes there. Love can be on the radiator (because it is hot) and loneliness can be on the table at the back of the classroom.
Activities like this, which give your students the opportunity to practice identifying and using abstract nouns, will enhance your students’ ability to use them in their own writing.