Learning to Recognize and Use Strong Verbs

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SWBAT recognize and use strong verbs in their reading and writing.

Big Idea

What's so important about verbs? Come and find out!

Teacher Background Knowledge and Preparation

Words are important.  The more words students learn, the more they can accurately describe things in their writing.  Words help a reader visualize pictures vividly.  Today we are actually going to introduce verbs and then apply that knowledge to our writing.  I even showed the students how to use thesaurus.com to find a stronger verb in place of an ordinary verb they would use in their every day language. 

In today's lesson students will listen to stories and determine the meaning of the word by using sentence level context clues.  They will think about the verbs that are used and think about how that verb appeals to their senses, giving them a strong visual image.  This addresses standards RL1.4, L1.4, and L1.4a.  We will also be writing verbs in sentences today, looking at how you can change a verb by adding a suffix.  This addresses standards L1.4c and L1.1e. Lastly, we will be using the electronic thesaurus (thesaurus.com) to help us find interesting synonyms for common verbs.  We will apply these new and interesting verbs to our writing.  This addresses standards W1.6, and L1.5d. 

Just in our adjective lesson, I need to be careful with having my students use thesaurus.com.  Young students can get into a lot of trouble if they just type in the verb and randomly start clicking on words.  For example, if I type jump into thesaurus.com, I get several categories which include: leap, abscond, aggrandize, ambush, argue, arise, and ascendancy.  This helps me understand how standard L1.5d comes into play with the different shades of meaning now.  This is why we will use the thesaurus, but I will control the keyboard.  As students' vocabularies grow, they will be able to distinguish between the shades of meaning and use thesaurus.com on their own in later years.

I know that some teachers who teach older grades don't like using Thesaurus.com because some of their students will just go and use that resource to make superficial changes to their writing by replacing adjectives and verbs when deeper revisions are needed.  I am specifically using this tool to guide students with word choice.  I know studnents will need to be taught specific lessons on revision so that, in later years, students will truly know what it means to revise deeply.

For this lesson you will need the Smartboard Extraordinary Verbs.notebook or Activboard Extraordinary Verbs.flipchart lesson, a book that instructs about verbs, and you will need to make enough copies of the student work Verb Snynonym Chart and Sentences.pdf for each student in your class.

Reading Stories and Acting Out Verbs

15 minutes

I had already introduced verbs to my class but wanted to strengthen their knowledge of verbs.  I started with the objective.  I said, "Today we are going to review what verbs are, use thesaurus.com to find interesting synonyms for ordinary verbs, and then write sentences using strong verbs."

I started reading "A Verb for Herb" by Maria Fleming.  As I read, we acted out the verbs.  Then I read another book called "Swirl by Swirl Spirals In Nature" by Joyce Sidman.  We also acted out the verbs in the text. You can see them doing this here: Acting Out Our Verbs.mp4.  The second book really had much more complex language in it, and I had my students use their reading strategies and context clues to clarify the meaning of some of the words such as expand, exploring, clings, and coils.  If you don't have either book, I've found a website that also gives some suggestions for books to use for teaching verbs.

After reading the stories we talked about how authors try to purposely use strong verbs in their writing so the reader can make "a movie in their minds" and that is called visualizing.  I said, " If authors use ordinary, or weak verbs, than the reader won't be able to make a clear picture in their minds. When an author uses strong verbs a reader's senses come alive."  I also told my students how using strong verbs pertain to their own writing.  I said, "We've been doing a lot of expository writing about animals.  You are the author when you write those stories.  Your job is to use strong verbs in your stories so your reader can make a strong, clear, movie in their minds when they read your story. You may want your readers to feel a certain way such as excited, or afraid."

Guided Practice

40 minutes

I had a really simple Smartboard lesson that was exactly the same as the student work.  I gave the students 8 simple verbs.  I had them write those verbs in the first column (ordinary verbs) in their charts.  The verbs are:

  • swim
  • run
  • laugh
  • cry
  • dance
  • eat
  • sleep
  • scream

I modeled how to type in the root form of the verb (no suffixes) into thesaurus.com.  I modeled the first verb - swim.  I will warn you now that the synonym "skinny dip" is listed.  I didn't make a big deal of it, I just said, "This choice is inappropriate and don't use it." I did think alouds to show how I might not know how to pronounce some of the words, so I clicked on the megaphone for the correct pronunciation.  I also did a think aloud to show how I might not be sure that one of the choices (glide) might mean the same as swim so I clicked on where it says "see definition of glide" which took me to dictionary.com, and I could check the meaning.  This is an important step when helping students to see the different shades of meaning between the different verb choices.  The class agreed that glide would be a suitable synonym, so I put it under synonym #1.  Then we came up with 2 more synonyms.  Then I modeled how to take one of my synonyms for swim and write a sentence with the shark picture, and instead of using the word swim I used a stronger verb. I showed them that if they needed to add a suffix such as -ed or -ing, then they could do this in order to make their sentence make sense. 

My original thought was to have my students do the rest of the words independently.  My students had a hard time working in small groups independently in our adjective lesson because of the different shades of meaning, though, and I didn't want students misusing and misunderstanding words.  So, for today, I typed in the words, directed the students to the correct category, and then, if students were unsure about a word, clicked on the word to find the meaning and determined if it was a true synonym for the original verb.  I learned from my adjective lesson and working as a whole group worked very well today.  You can see this portion of the lesson here: Finding Synonyms for Verbs Using Thesaurus.com.mp4.

Independent Practice

20 minutes

After we wrote our synonyms on our chart I sent the students back to their seats. I partnered students up with the person sitting next to them.  We looked at the pictures for the sentence writing portion. The first picture is one of a shark swimming.  I said, "One of our original verb is swimming.  I want you to tell your partner a sentence about swimming, but I want you to use a synonym."

After the students had practice speaking their sentences, I said, "Now look at the picture of the shark swimming.  It's your turn to write a sentence about the shark swimming but you can't use the boring verb of swimming.  Use a better synonym in your sentence."  I walked around the room watching what students were doing.  I asked them questions such as "Where is the shark swimming?" so the students who could give me a more complex sentence would indeed do this.

The students continued to work with their partners speaking the sentence using a new verb and then writing their sentence. You can see a portion of this part of the lesson here: Speaking Our Sentences With New and Interesting Verbs.mp4.


5 minutes

I have a great poster that one of my teacher's aides made for my class.  It's a twitter board.  My students love using this poster as part of our closure.  I gave each of my student's a post it note and said, "I want you to tweet about why it is important to use strong verbs in your reading and writing.  Pretend your mom and dad follow you on Twitter and they want to find out about what you are learning in school today.  Be specific and tell them why learning about verbs is important. "