Abstract nouns refer to a state, concept or feeling and cannot be perceived by any of the five senses. If you want your students to be able to identify them then your students need to spend time playing with them. Here are 7 classroom activities that will get your students exploring and manipulating abstract nouns.
1. List 10 on the board and ask 1 or 2 students at a time to come out the front and act them out. For a fun twist, the student at the front could be shown the word and the class must guess what it is. Here are 10 words you could use: anger, fear, love, jealousy, joy, sadness, wealth, poverty, marriage and slavery.
2. Write abstract nouns on the board and ask your students to think of ones with the opposite meaning. Here are 10 words you could use: trust, stupidity, sanity, pride, beauty, calm, crime, curiosity, laughter and happiness.
3. Write 3 headings on the board: Feelings, Ideas, and Qualities. Challenge your students to list abstract nouns under each heading. This works especially well with small groups competing against each other -give them 30 minutes and a large poster size sheet of paper to write the lists on.
4. Many abstract nouns refer to feelings. Challenge your students to think of similes for happiness and unhappiness. Let them think of the words on their own for a few minutes and then let them look in a thesaurus. They should come up with words like joy, delight, satisfaction, excitement, pleasure, cheerfulness, enjoyment, contentment, glee, and laughter for happiness and sadness, disappointment, misery, sorrow, depression and gloom for unhappiness. To extend the activity, each student could be given one of the words to write in a sentence and share with the class.
5. Write sentences that combine the abstract nouns with concrete words. For example, affection is like a night light. Ask your students to write or discuss reasons why this is so. Their suggestions may be that they both make you feel safe, help you see obstacles, need to be powered by something, don’t cost very much and come in all different shapes. You could try, isolation is like a cheesy pizza, happiness is like a new book or freedom is like a warty toad.
6. Jumble the letters up and challenge your students to work out what they are. Try RGNAE (anger), OJY (joy), ARAMRIGE (marriage), OERFEDM (freedom), HLEWAT (wealth), ETIXECEMNT (excitement).
7. Write them on post-it-notes and give them to small groups of students. Challenge each group to stick the notes in an appropriate place in the classroom. This works well if the children are given time to tell the class why they put the notes where they did. Love may end up on a heater (because they are both warm) and loneliness may end up on a table far at the back of the class.
Activities like these, that give your students opportunities to practice identifying and using abstract nouns will strengthen the ability of your students to use them in their own writing.