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What are adjectives?

Adjectives are words that describe nouns (a person, animal, place or thing).

They can come before the noun or after the noun. In the examples below, the adjective is creaky because it describes what the door (the noun) was like:


The door was creaky.

The creaky door opened.


You can use more than just one adjective to descibe a noun. When doing this, commas are used to list the adjectives as in the examples below:


The nasty, old witch flew through the sky on her crooked, wooden broomstick.

The mean, terrifying, green dragon swooped down from the sky above.


How can adjectives be used to create expanded noun phrases?

When one or more adjectives is used to describe a noun it forms what is known as an expanded noun phrase. 


forest (noun)

The forest (noun phrase)

The dark forest (expanded noun phrase)

The dark, mysterious forest (also an expanded noun phrase)

Adjectives KS1

In KS1, children should learn to use adjectives in their sentences to describe nouns. They should be encouraged to use adejctives within their story writing to make them more interesting for the reader. It is typical for children in KS1 to race ahead with the action in their story and so they should be encouraged to include descriptions of the characters and settings using adjectives.

How can children in KS1 be taught to use adjectives?

Children in KS1 can be taught about adjectives through shared reading activities. Interesting examples of adjectives could be identified in the shared text and listed on the board to form an adjective word bank.

When adjectives are identified in shared reading, it is important to start getting the children to think about 'why' particular adjectives were chosen by the author. Teachers could ask questions such as, 'Why do you think the author chose to use the word shiny to describe the robot?' or 'What is the author telling us about the house when she says it was crooked?'

Word banks of adjectives are really useful and can be given to children to support using them. Why not download this Adjectives Word Mat KS1 to support children including adjectives in their own writing.

Another useful startegy to help KS1 children learn about adjectives is to identify nouns within sentences and then challenging the children to improve the sentence with adjectives to describe the nouns. Base sentences could be given to the children on cards and then children could rewrite them using adjectives. Download this Adjectives KS1 Worksheet to give children practise in using adjectives in their sentences.

Drama is another great vehicle for getting children to both generate and use adjectives. The 'guided tour' technique is a really good example. This is where children are paired up and named A and B. Partner A starts by guiding a blindfolded partner B around a setting. You could display an image of the setting on the board for children to refer to. Nouns within this setting could have been previously identified to support children and placed on cards around the classroom. Partner A has to describe the setting to partner B as they move around the classroom together, using lots of interesting adjectives. The class is then stopped and all the partner B's feedback any interesting adjectives they can remember. These could be listed on the board. Then, the children swap roles so everyone gets a chance to describe!

Children love playing games to help them learn so why not try putting lots of different objects in a bag. Children could then put their hand in the bag without looking and then try to use adjectives to describe it to a partner, who has to guess what it is.



LESSON PACK: The BFG - Identifying Adjectives

LESSON PACK: Describing Dinosaurs

FREE: Improving Sentences KS2 Worksheet

Adjectives KS2

By the end of KS1, children will have an understanding of what an adjective is and will be starting to use them in their own writing. In KS2, the focus is helping children build on this foundation by using more sophisticated adjectives. Children will develop sentences containing adjectives to create interesting similes. They will also, as they move through primary school, become more skilled in explaining why authors chose particular adjectives in their writing by commenting on authorial intent.


How can children in KS2 be taught to use adjectives?

Children in KS2 need to start using more sophisticated adjective choices in their writing. In KS1, they might use the word 'scary' to describe a dragon, for example. However, in KS2 children would be expected to start using synonymns such as terrifying, menacing, etc. Providing children with opportunity to generate lists of these alternatives as a class is a really useful warm-up. Thesauruses are also invaluable for helping children make more interesting word choices.

Identifying adjectives in a shared text is a useful way to start discussing how effective they are. Children could be asked to improve the existing adjectives by changing them for more interesting alternatives. This is sometimes referred to as 'uplevelling' the adjective choices and can of course be applied to other word classes too.

Children should also be taught how the words 'as' or 'like' can be used to help generate similes from sentences containing adjectives. For example, in KS1 a child might write 'She touched the cold metal'. In KS2, this could be developed to something like, 'The gleaming, cold metal felt icy like snow'. To help children do this, the beginnings of similes could be provided and they could be asked to complete them.