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Vivid Verbs Make Writing Come Alive

Thousand Word Project, Angela Gilbert, Lewiston Middle School, 8th Grade English Language Arts Teacher

Link to the Prezi Lesson:

http://prezi.com/r81h-8fggbmb/using-artwork-to-find-vivid-verbs/

 Proposed Time:  40-50 minute period

Introduction:

The Thousand Words Project was an exciting lesson in my classroom; students were engaged and were able to see a new way of approaching writing.  Students who are visual learners got a chance to visualize how to put a paper together, and having something specific to look at gave them a clear direction for their paper.

The project spends time focusing on the importance of specificity in word choice.  The students watched the video concerning word choice and how important it is to be accurate.  However, I did not see a lesson that concerned the importance of creative and exciting word choices.  There was emphasis on accuracy on words but no on choosing specific diction that is creative and original.  During the Thousand Words Project in my classroom, I supplemented the lessons with a brief lesson of my own involving choosing exciting verbs to help demonstrate their point.  I think that integrating my proposed lesson would be a good way to let the students develop their creative muscles a little further.

Objectives:

  • Students will identify active verbs versus passive verbs.
  • Students will compare and contrast the effectiveness of active verbs versus passive verbs.
  • Students will analyze the purpose of an object in a painting relative to its action.
  • Students will compose a short writing piece that utilizes active verbs.

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts

 Writing Standards, Grades 6, 7, and 8:  2. d. – Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.

 Writing Standards, Grades 6, 7, and 8: 3. d. – Use precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and sensory language to capture the action and convey experiences and events.

Writing Standards, Grades 6, 7, and 8: 10. – Write routinely over extended time frames and shorter time frames for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

 Language Standards, Grade 8: 1. b. – Form verbs in the active and passive voice.

 Language Standards, Grade 8, 3. a. – Use verbs in the active and passive voice and in the conditional and subjunctive mood to achieve particular effects

Teach it:
The Prezi Presentation walks students through learning the difference between the passive verb and the active verbs and demonstrates how the active verb can be more descriptive and powerful.  Students are instructed to think about what an object is doing in the picture.  After looking at some examples, students are encouraged to choose their own verbs for an assigned picture.  They begin with one aspect of the picture: a fire.  Giving them one aspect to focus on to start with will allow them to build the skill without becoming overwhelmed.  After some discussion and collaboration, they are to create a paragraph that describes the entire picture without using any passive verbs.

There is an optional frame for advanced learners, asking them to try and describe the color of the background without using a passive verb, a much trickier practice.  There are some suggestions on a later slide that could be offered to students either before or after they give it a shot, depending on how they are doing with it.

There is also an additional slide that a teacher could use to have their students practice these skills even more.  There is another picture from the TWP website that would be good to describe using active verbs.  This would be conducive to a longer class period or some independent practice on a different day.

As another extension, students can go back and look at a piece of writing that they had already written.  They can underline five examples of passive verbs in their writing that they can change to active verbs.  They can then write another draft of that piece that has fewer passive verbs and more active verbs.

To help summarize the points in the lesson, students can create an exit ticket answering the following questions:

  1. What is the difference between a passive verb and an active verb?
  2. Change this sentence so that it uses an active verb:
    I am scared.
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