Expanding Descriptive Verb Use

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One of the most important steps in improving writing skills is expanding the use of more descriptive language when describing actions. Students tend to repeat verb usage: "He said..., She told him..., She asked..., He ran quickly..., He walked across the room...". The target of this lesson plan is to get students more aware of the subtle variations that they can employ by using more descriptive verbs such as: "He insisted on..., She giggled..., They nibbled on..., etc."

Aim

Improve descriptive verb usage in writing

Activity

Vocabulary expansion activity followed by writing activity focusing on expanding on a bare-bones extract

Level

Upper intermediate to advanced

Outline

  • Write the verbs 'say, laugh, walk, eat, think, drink' on the board and ask students to divide into small groups to think up as many synonyms for these verbs as they can.
  • Once students have finished this exercise, pool the results together as a class. You may want to have a student take notes and photocopy the class results.
  • Have students return to their groups to do the exercise below matching general meaning verbs to more specific verbs.
  • Once students have finished, compare answers as a class. Your acting abilities might be called for to explain the subtle differences between a number of the verbs.
  • Next, ask students to write a simple story about something that has recently happened to them. Instruct them to use simple verbs such as 'say, do, make, tell, walk, etc.'
  • Have students pair up and exchange their stories. Each student should then elaborate the texts of the other student by using as many verbs previously studied as they can.
  • Once students have finished and compared their stories, the class can have some fun reading the stories aloud.

    Interesting Writing

    Match the more specific verbs to the general meaning verbs in column one.​

    General Verbs

    tell

    move

    say

    laugh

    eat

    drink

    throw

    run

    move

    hold

    walk

    Specific Verbs

    exclaim

    toss

    stagger

    munch

    slurp

    twist

    writhe

    hurl

    sip

    order

    swallow

    insist

    giggle

    clutch

    fidget

    chuckle

    sprint

    mutter

    wander

    instruct

    nibble

    gulp

    snigger

    lob

    hug

    trudge

    munch

    jog

    mention

    wriggle

    bend

    grasp

    stagger

    whisper

    pass

    swallow

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