Making Perfect Scents

story by Geoffrey McSkimming , illustrated by Peter Sheehan



Explore how interesting vocabulary choices can improve content and make a story more engaging.  

Before reading, revise the meaning of synonyms. Explain that synonyms are related to a general word however, they will provide a more specific meaning. This makes writing clearer and descriptions easier to understand. As a result, stories become more engaging.  

Create some synonym clines for general words such as: 

  • Walk: listing words that increase in speed (plod, stroll, march, stride, jog, run, sprint) 
  • Hot: listing words that increase in heat intensity (warm, balmy, summery, baking, roasting, blistering) 
  • Talk: listing words that increase in volume (whisper, mumble, chatter, project, yell, shout, bellow) 

You may wish to visit the Digital Learning Selector’s page on Clines to see a range of ICT templates.  

While reading the story, ask students to underline the interesting vocabulary. After reading, collate students’ contributions of interesting words and categorise them under the headings of nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. Then provide students with a range of quotations from the story. You may choose to use the sentences containing the interesting words identified by the students. Alternatively, choose a range of sentences that you think will challenge the students. Some sample sentences include:  

He started into the quagmire, trying to see where it became quicksand and not just the swampy, sludgy water. 

They had only been venturing into this place for a few minutes, but already they were drenched in warm droplets of humidity. 

The quicksand was already up to Jools’s waist, and she was steadily sinking further into it. 

Ask them to identify interesting nouns, verbs etc. within each sentence. Then ask students to think of a less interesting synonym for these unusual words. For example:  

  • Can you find two exciting verbs in this sentence?  

‘They had only been venturing into this place for a few minutes, but already they were drenched in warm droplets of humidity.’ 

  • What is a less interesting synonym of these verbs?  
  • Venturing: walking 
  • Drenched: soaked 

If you have a digital subscription, there is an interactive version of this activity at


Finally, provide students with a writing sample. Explain that the content is interesting, but the vocabulary choices are letting it down. Ask them to substitute boring words for more interesting vocabulary. They could also add a range of interesting adjectives and adverbs. To scaffold this task, you may wish to provide them with a selection of word mats (for example Words for said) or allow them access to an online dictionary/thesaurus such as Kids.Wordsmyth 

A suggested writing sample is below. Some suggested words/phrases to improve have been underlined. This could be converted into a worksheet with double or triple spacing, to allow students to simply edit the necessary words or phrases, rather than copying it out in full.  

James stood on the top of the building feeling the wind blow past his hair. He couldn’t believe that he had agreed to tightrope walk from one skyscraper to the other. They were so high up and when he looked down the cars, trees and people looked very small. The wind was very strong and he felt like he might blow over 

Out of nowhere, rain drops started landing on his arms, making them wet. Shaking, from cold or from fear, James realised that he needed to take the first step. As he placed his foot on the start of the rope he started shaking and decided that this was a terrible mistake.