Narrative Writing: Strong Verbs

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SWBAT use strong verbs in their personal narratives.

Big Idea

Which word is the right word?

Introduction and Modeling

10 minutes

I have noticed this year that the majority of my students have no idea how to a find a verb in a sentence.  Today some of my kiddos were telling me that the words "the" and "my" are verbs.  Yikes!  Looks like I have my work cut out for me!  

Yesterday, I had my students assess a writing sample of their own, and look for trends in their word choice.  Through that, I noticed that my students love to use helping verbs all the time!  The data I collected will help guide me through this lesson.  

I started by asking the students to tell me what a verb is. They said, a word that shows action. Then, I displayed a sentence with a helping verb. 

"The shiny shirt was pretty."  I asked my students to identify the verb.  (This was very, very scary, but once we ruled out all of the other words, they guessed was!)  I reminded them that some verbs do not show action.  

I talked about how the verb "was" is a weak verb.  Since we can't just pop in a different verb to make it stronger, we have to rework the sentence.  We looked at this example instead.

"The rhinestone studded shirt glittered under the lights."  I asked the students to identify the verb again.  This time it was easier because they could see the action in glittered.  

I showed them another sentence.  "She was sad."  Would you believe that some of my lovelies still couldn't find the verb?  We finally found it, and I explained that we needed to rework the sentence to make the verb stronger.  

We tried "She couldn't hide her red, tear-stained cheeks."  

I also showed some easier sentences like.

"She ate dinner" which we changed to "She devoured her dinner." and then again to "The softball player devoured the greasy burger and fries."

I told the students to start by changing the verb.  After that make the nouns more specific and add some details.  Today our main focus is the verb though.  

Cooperative Work

15 minutes

I printed out a sentence with a weak verb on the top of 8 different papers, one for each group.  I kept the groups larger this time with 3 or 4 students. I wanted to use the data from the previous lesson to group the students, but I found that my classes were kind of all over the place with their word choice and various other writing issues.  Because of this, I chose to keep my students in their mixed ability table groups.  This activity is fast paced so there is little time to get off task.  In hindsight, I should not have allowed groups bigger than 3.  A few groups did get a little crazy, but for the most part, the students were on task.  

Each group was to read the sentence and circle the verb.  After that they were supposed to choose a stronger verb.  Once the verb was chosen, they could jazz up the rest of the sentences.  I gave them about 2 minutes to do this and then they rotated papers among the groups.  When they got a new paper, they were supposed to read what the previous group wrote and choose a different verb to use.  We repeated this process until each group had seen each sentence.

When the paper was back with the original groups, the students read all of the sentences and chose the one that they thought was the best.  They weren't allowed to choose their own.  They circled it and brought it up to me.  I shared the improved sentences  on the document camera.  The students loved this, and they were really proud when one of their sentences was chosen.  

I noticed that my reluctant writers jumped right in to this activity.  It was fun and non threatening, so they felt successful.

 Student Sample

Practice Time!

15 minutes

Next I gave my students this handy list of strong verbs that I came across on the internet.  I asked them to choose 3 that they thought were interesting.  The students then wrote a short paragraph using those 3 verbs.  I asked them to consider making all of the words in their sentences strong, not just the verbs.  

For the most part, they did a fantastic job.  I did notice that several students used verbs in correctly, mainly as adjectives instead of verbs.  The majority of the kids were able to write sentences that were much improved from the pre assessment.  

This activity also helped me realized that my students need help crafting descriptive phrases and generating precise nouns.  We will tackle adjectives and descriptive phrases tomorrow!

One more verb resource!