Idea 183: Superb Way to Teach Expanded Noun Phrases

Expanded noun phrases are quite a dry-sounding topic by nature, but don’t despair as there IS a fun way to teach them!

My fiancee suggested the following activity, which I tried in my class when I was being observed and it was described as an ‘inspired’ idea!

FIRST show a picture of a shark or a snake and have the children give you an adjective for the animal. A snarling snake, a scary shark etc. These combinations are technically expanded noun phrases (a phrase being a group of words that are grammatically connected, in this case with a noun as the ‘head’). Examples in the National Curriculum include ‘the blue butterfly’ and ‘plain flour’.

THEN you get them to put ‘with’ after their noun to give you a longer expanded noun phrase like ‘a slippery snake with green scales’. An example from the National Curriculum would be ‘foxes with bushy tails’.

NEXT have the children work in pairs with a few other pictures to come up with expanded noun phrases.

Now for the clever part.

Get some ‘Where’s Wally?’ pictures, or I suppose that should be Waldo for my American readers. These things are BRILLIANT for expanded noun phrases.


Pick someone in the picture and say “can you find the man? Oh I’m sorry I’m not being specific enough, can you find the smiling, strong man? Still too hard? Okay, can you find the tall, strong, smiling man with a blue hat and an axe? Oh wonderful, you can!”

NOW the writing activity for the children is to come up with their own descriptions for people in the pictures for their friends to use. Have a mini-plenary where you model some examples and have the rest of the children see if they can find the person who is being described. If they can’t then the writer needs to add more detail!

The kids loved this, plus it gave them a nice clear reason for why they needed to write really specific and detailed expanded noun phrases. I had some adjective word banks on the tables to help out children if they were struggling for words to use.

OTHER FUN IDEA: To help visualise what an expanded noun phrase is I often mime holding a floppy balloon in one hand: I tell the class this is the noun ‘dog’. The children follow along with my actions as we then we stretch it a little bit to make ‘the dog’. This is a noun phrase but we haven’t expanded it yet. Now we take a deep breath and get ready to blow some adjectives into it. The children give suggestions of adjectives and then as a class we all blow that word into our noun phrase and mime it expanding like a balloon to become an expanded noun phrase!

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14 Responses to Idea 183: Superb Way to Teach Expanded Noun Phrases

  1. Sharon Bode says:

    Terrific idea and a fun activity.

  2. Abby says:

    Hi, please advise. I love this idea, would it be suitable for an interview lesson where it is required to teach a 30 minute English lesson with a focus on writing? Thank you in advance.

    • theplews says:

      Hi Abby, I think this might be a struggle to fit in to 30 minutes if the focus of the lesson is writing. 30 minutes is a hard time to plan for to get some writing done.

      • Abby says:

        I did wonder about this but the focus of the session is on ‘writing’ so they have got to produce some, even if it’s one quality sentence… I was thinking a 10 minute input, recapping nouns and what we know already about how can stretch sentences to add more detail (by including adjectives) then explain activity, which due to time limit, I would heavily scaffold. LA could describe verbally with scribe in a group then come up with best descriptive sentence. MA could work with a partner, provide word mats for prepositional vocab and HA could work independently, perhaps including a simile. Forgot to mention that I may switch ‘Where’s Wally’ for an alternative that I have found where the chn spot the minibeast in the garden amongst flowers, trees, vegetables etc. Then in the last 5 minutes ask volunteers to share their best expanded sentences and peer comment…

        • theplews says:

          Hi that sounds good. As a starter you could maybe put a few pictures up and ask the children to write adjectives onto post it notes and stick them to the pictures? That’s a good active starter and you can then use the children’s ideas that you see on the post its in your input to make expanded noun phrases?

  3. Abby says:

    Yes thank you, that’s a nice way of modelling the activity using the children’s ideas. A 40 min or whole lesson would have been better but hopefully if I work out the logistics and scaffold it well, it will be a success :S Eeeeek.

  4. Sally says:

    This looks great! Will try it with my year 5s tomorrow. Thank you.

  5. Tracy says:

    It sounds like a fun, all involved activity. Definately going to try this.

  6. Jade says:

    Hi Can you tell me what year you used this for?
    I am going to my first interview next week an:d need to teach a year 2 SPAG lesson for 30 minutes. With a few adaptations I think this could be great!

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