Let's Get Into Action!

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Students will be able to recognize and demonstrate the use of verbs as action words when speaking.

Big Idea

Discussing how pilgrim children played helps students recognize action words.


15 minutes

Gather students on the rug using a preferred classroom management technique. I like to use my “Stop, look, listen.” The students stop what they are doing, look at me and listen for the direction. I usually preface the direction with, “When I say go…” This reminds the students to listen to the whole direction before moving to follow the directive.

In this case I would say, “When I say go I would like you to clear your space, push in your chair and go take a spot on your dot. Walking feet go.” By saying walking feet I am reminding the students to use walking feet in the classroom to ensure safe movement between areas.

Once the students are seated on their spots on the rug I ask them to stand up and do washing machine arms. This action helps the students know they need to move to a location where they will not bump into another student because we are about to do an action song.

“Boys and girls when I say “Go” I need you to stand up and use your washing machine arms to get into a location where you will not be in anyone else’s personal space. Washing machine arms go.”

Now I play the song Fun to Get Fit, by Greg and Steve. The reason I select this song is because there are lots of actions in it and the students get to move about before sitting for the lesson.

Once the song is over I have the students sit back down on their spot on the rug.

While the students are sitting back in their spots, I open a blank screen on the SMARTBoard.

“Can anyone tell me one of the actions we did while we were exercising to get fit?”

I use the Fair Sticks to select students to respond to the question and write their response on the board. 

Once I have a good selection written on the board I say, “Great work, we did all of the actions that you mentioned. Now here is a tricky question for you…Who can recall what a noun is?”

“That’s right Shelby it is a person, place or thing. Well an action word is a verb. Can you all say verb?” 

Why verbs?

“Well done. A verb tells us what the noun is doing. For example in the sentence (I write as I talk so I capture my visual learners’ attention) “The dog runs.” The word “dog” is the noun (I circle the word dog in one color) and the word “runs” is the verb (I circle the word runs in a different color).”

“Here is another sentence. The boy likes to jump.”

“Who can tell me the noun?”

“Great Finn; the word boy is the noun. Now who can tell me the verb?”

“Right Brennan; the word jump is the verb.”  

“Well today we are going to read a book about the first Thanksgiving and I would like you to be on the lookout for verbs in our story.” 


40 minutes

“This book is called The Very First Thanksgiving by Rhonda Gowler Greene and illustrated by Susan Gaber.”    Why this book

“Looking at the cover (here I open the book wide and show the students the front and back cover at the same time) can anyone tell me what they see?”

I use the fair sticks to select two or three students to respond to the question.

“Great work team. I also saw the two girls running with dolls in their hands and the two boys standing and talking.”

“Can anyone tell me the verbs, the actions that are going on in this picture?”

 “Yes Justin the girls are running (I emphasis the word running) and the boys are standing (once again I put an emphasis on the verb/action). They are also doing something else… Can anyone tell me what it is?”

“Well done Connor, they are talking.”


Now I go ahead and start reading the book. On each page we try to find the action word or words. For example on the second page there is “gathered,” “blessed,” “dressed,” and “shared.”

If the page does not have an action word on it, I encourage the students to look at the illustrations and comment on what is happening there. For example, where the native peoples walk through the gate we discuss how they “walked” through the gate, etc.

During reading we may also discuss other vocabulary words; for example the word “foe.” I use the word friend (the antonym) to help describe the word meaning of foe.


When the book is over I tell the students that today we will be making a colonial cabin just like the ones the pilgrims lived. I show the students how the cabin lifts up to reveal a pocket behind it.

“In this pocket you are going to place some actions the Colonial children did long ago. Each little picture has a sentence and it will be your job to circle the verb… the action word… in each sentence before placing it in the pocket behind your cabin.”

I have the students take a seat around the edge of the rug so that I can model for them how they will get the log house look on their cabin.

“You will need to place a piece of corrugated cardboard under your cabin paper. Then you get a brown crayon, place it on its side on top of your cabin paper and rub up and down. The texture of the corrugated cardboard makes the cabin look like it was made with logs or rough wood just like the cabins we saw in the book.”

I hold it up for all the students to see. Then I model how I will find the verbs in the sentence.

“If I do not know what the sentence says, what can I do?”

“That’s right Benjamin; I can ask a friend or a grown-up to read it to me.”

“At this station you will find the cabin, the verb sentence sheet, pencils, scissors, pieces of corrugated cardboard, and crayons. What is the first thing you think you will need to do?”

“Yes Jonathan you need to write your name. For this activity write your name on the back of the pocket paper.”

“Does anyone have any questions?”


Once the students understand the directions I send them over to the work stations one group at a time to maintain a safe and orderly classroom environment. It sounds a bit like this:

“Station number one go have some verb action fun.

Station number two you know what to do.

Station number three hope you were listening to me.

Station number four shouldn’t be here anymore.”

These are not always done in that order so the students have to pay attention to when their station actually gets called.  

Students working on the cabins   Students working on the cabins 2   Students working at integrated work station time

Allow the students 20 minutes to work on this activity. Set a visual timer and remind the students to look at the timer so they will use their time wisely. 


10 minutes

When the time is up I blow two short blasts on my whistle and use the “Stop, look listen” technique mentioned above. “When I say go, I would like you to clean up your space remembering to take care of our things, push in your chair, and use walking feet to go and take a spot on your dot.”

Students know to put completed work in the finished work bin. Any work that is not completed goes into the under construction bin and can be completed throughout the day whenever the student finds he/she has spare time or it will be completed during free choice center time.

Once the students are seated I tell them that their exit slip for today is to tell me one verb. “Today you will need to be able to tell me one verb. What is a verb?”

“That’s right a verb is an action word. Here is the deal though; once someone has told me their verb that verb is off the menu for everyone else. I am going to give you thirty seconds to sit and think of two or three verbs, action words, so if someone else uses your verb you will have another one ready to go.” I look at my watch and start timing. 

“Okay the thirty seconds are done. I hope you all thought really hard and came up with more than one or two verbs; action words. I am going to use the fair sticks to help me pick the students. Here we go.”

Once a student has told me his/her verb they are able to use the hand sanitizer and go to get their snack. If a student is unable to give me an answer, they know they can do one of two things.

  1. They can ask a friend to help, or
  2. They can wait until everyone else has gone and then we will work on coming with a verb together.

See my class exit slip procedure - Verb Exit Ticket

I use this process to quickly assess which students have got the concept and which students will need extra help. Those that need extra help will meet with me during a small group session such as during reading work stations. 


5 minutes

I will call each student over during a time which fits into my classroom schedule. I usually call my students over to work with me during free choice centers time or at integrated work station time (only if I have enough parent volunteers and I am not working a station myself).

I tell the student, “I am going to read five sentences out loud to you. Your job is to tell me the verb you hear in each sentence. Ready?”

I read out the sentences on the recording sheet and record the student responses.

For some students I may need to review what a verb is, but for the most part I would like to see if the student can recall what a verb is from the lesson itself.  


Play the game “Simon Says” which of course involves many action words.


Have a sorting activity where there are pictures of people doing things and pictures of nouns (person, place or thing). Students will need to sort the pictures into the correct categories. Be aware that the pictures of person’s may get sorted into the verb category. Just ask the student why they placed the person there to clarify understanding/rational.


The students do a past and present writing/drawing piece. They are to draw/write one thing the Colonial children do and one thing present day children do. For example, “Colonial children churn butter.” “I go to the store.”


This Scholastic site has many great lesson plan ideas on Thanksgiving which are Common Core Aligned. The site also has some great short videos for the students to watch.