More Ideas for More than One Modifier: Activities for practicing the order of adjectives

When you teach from a book, you begin to have your favorite units. It may be the theme or the topic that you enjoy working with. I’ve always liked Jay Maurer’s unit on the modification of nouns in Focus on Grammar (Book 5). I especially like the grammar notes and have referred to them often. Maurer includes a simple but useful list of modifiers and their positions in a long noun phrase: opinion, size, age/ temperature, shape, color, origin/ nationality, materials (Maurer, 156).

I like teaching the order of adjectives because I find it easy and fun to come up with additional ideas for independent practice. Perhaps you have, too.  If so, please add to my list of suggestions.

  • Fashion Police. Have students observe the clothing of 3-5 people they see from the time they leave school to the time they arrive home. They must write down brief but detailed descriptions that include phrases with more than one modifier. They should also state whether they approve of each outfit. Model:

1. Bus driver – He wore a simple blue cotton uniform.  I think the clothing is practical, and it makes it easy for passengers to identify the driver.

2. Neighbor – When I got out of the elevator, I saw my neighbor run into her apartment and close the door. I saw that she was wearing a long, pink bathrobe and funny rabbit slippers that had long fuzzy ears. I don’t think she planned for anyone to see her, so I think it was okay that she was dressed funny.

3. Roommate – Last night my roommate was dressed in old gray shorts, his favorite red cotton shirt, and dirty white socks. Maybe the socks weren’t dirty, just old. We didn’t have any guests last night, and I think it’s fine for my roommate to dress comfortably when we’re the only ones in the apartment.

  • Food Critic. Have students write about one thing they ate. Encourage them to have fun with the assignment. For example, they can stop at an Italian pastry shop or make a favorite dish using their mom’s recipe. They should write a brief but detailed description of the food using at least one phrase with more than one modifier. Model: I ate a delicious Italian lemon bar. It was sweet and perfect with tea. The cookie part was a little dry, but I loved the yummy yellow lemon filling. 

  • Art Critic. Have students write a brief description of a knick-knack or two in their home. If possible, they can bring in a picture of it. Be sure their description includes the material and origin. Model: My sister keeps a pretty Russian lacquer box in her room. It was a gift from a friend, and I know that my sister keeps her rings in it.



Maurer, Jay. Focus on Grammar 5: An integrated skills approach. Pearson Education, 2006.


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