I felt good about myself. I had taught my students how to combine sentences and eliminate unnecessary adverbs from their writing. I had
not, however, taught them strong verbs for writing, nor had I answered the question, “What is a strong verb?”
My students' bland writing tainted everything. All my food tasted bland. All my favorite movies became bland. Even my own writing became bland. I had to do something fast, so I called my Mom, told her I’d be home late and to feed my dinner to the cat.
I had work to do. I had to teach my students how to use strong verbs for writing. Here’s what I came up with:
What is a Strong Verb?
Poor writing, the kind that is often found in student essays, relies on adverbs and adjectives. Good writing relies on verbs, strong verbs.
- Strong verbs show instead of tell. In each example you can see how much better the second sentence is.
Example: The tiger ate the antelope.
The tiger devoured the antelope.
Example: The Buffalo injured the hunter.
The Buffalo gored the hunter.
- Single verbs show better than verb/adverb combinations.
Example: He uses time wisely when writing essays.
He maximizes time when writing essays.
Example: The lion ferociously ate the gazelle.
The lion gobbled the gazelle (note the serendipitous use of alliteration).
- Be verbs (am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been) suck the life out of your writing!
Example: He was bludgeoned by the boxer.
The boxer bludgeoned him.
Example: The pedestrian was run over by the school bus.
The school bus ran over the pedestrian.
- Have/has/had combined with a noun encourage readers to wedge their head in a vice.
Example: I had an argument with the referee.
I argued with the referee
Example: I had dinner with the sheriff.
I dined with the sheriff.
Procedures for Revision
- Instruct students to copy the above information in their notebooks.
- Instruct students to identify all verbs in their draft.
- Instruct students to identify sentences in the draft that violate the guidelines for writing strong verbs.
- Instruct students to rewrite those sentences.
- Instruct students not to use the same verb over and over, especially at the beginning of a list of instructions.
- Divide students into pairs and instruct them to read their rough draft to each other. This works best if both students read at separate times.
- Tell students to listen for weak verbs.
- Make a final revision, exchanging weak verbs for strong verbs.
- Write the best revisions on the board.
- For extra fun, make it part of a paragraph challenge.
* This lesson was inspired by Mini Lessons for Revision by Susan Geye, 1997, Absey & Co. Spring, TX.
Click here for a complete 1st semester curriculum map for language arts with lesson plans and links.
This post is part of the series: Better Grammar Equals Better Writing
Grammar builds the foundation for good writing: the better the grammar, the better the writing.
- Teaching Students How to Combine Sentences and Improve their Writing
- Lesson Plan: Eliminate Weak Verb-Adverb Combinations
- Lesson Plan: Eliminate “To Be” Verbs
- Lesson Plan: Write With Strong Verbs
- Lesson Plan: Active Voice vs. Passive Voice
- Revising Pronouns and Antecedents with this Lesson Plan
- Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement Made Easy
- Lesson Plan: Understanding Independent and Dependent Clauses
- Teach Your Kids to Eliminate Fragments and Run-ons in Their Writing
- Lesson Plan: Use Parts of Speech to Improve Sentence Beginnings