Types of verbs

Stage 2 students understanding that verbs represent different processes.

Doing, thinking, saying and relating and identify different types of verbs and the way they add meaning to a sentence. Students will need to be taught metalanguage to describe the language features they will be discussing.

Verbs

What is happening?

Our experiences are generally made up of different kinds of doings, happenings and states. These can be referred to as processes. Processes typically take the form of verbs. Through verb groups we can express different aspects of our experience:

  • what we do (action verbs)
  • what we say (saying verbs)
  • what we think, feel and perceive (sensing verbs)
  • how we create links between bits of information (relating verbs)
  • how we refer to things that simply exist (existing verbs)

(A New Grammar Companion for Teachers by Beverly Derewianka (2011, p15, PETAA))

Activities to support the strategy

Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA)

NOTE 1 – The information found here is from the book, A New Grammar Companion for Teachers, Beverly Derewianka 2011, Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA), Sydney. Reproduced with kind permission from the Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA). Sydney, Australia. http://www.petaa.edu.au Follow the link to purchase a copy of the book and join PETAA.

Quality Picture Books

NOTE 2 – Quality picture books and quality children’s literature should be used in all examples of the following activities. Please see book lists provided in the Premiers Reading Challenge as a starting point. online.det.nsw.edu.au/prc/booklist/home

Example of NSW premier's reading challenge website
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Activity 1: action verbs

Much of our experience consists of physical activity. With younger children we often refer to doing words but we could also use the term action verb. We find examples of action verbs in most texts but particularly in texts such as procedures, recounts and narratives. Derewianka (2011) p16

Part 1

Procedures are mainly about actions in the form of commands and can thus be explicitly taught through science lessons and experiments, for example:

Put the soil in the container. Add the water to the soil. Mix the soil and water together.

Children, as young as Kindergarten, can photograph each other performing any number of actions; they can then display these actions and label them accordingly. Sentences can be written using the specific action verb and to extend students, teachers can also focus on subject verb agreement and or tense.

Displays an image of a child catching a ball, with the word catch. A child kicking a ball with the word kick. A child running with the word run.
Three images action verbs; catch, kick and run

Part 2

When recounting what happened on an excursion, encourage students to make the experience come alive through their choice of action verbs. These could be brainstormed first in preparation for writing:

On Tuesday Kindergarten children and teachers visited Blue Gum Farm. We tried to milk the cow, but her tail swished in our face. We stroked a chicken and patted a horse. Then we clambered onto the bus and trundled off home.

Part 3

In narratives we could look for an ‘action sequence’ in the story to model to students how professional writers create a sense of dynamic action. Highlight the action verbs to show the action sequence allowing students to act out the scene.

Rikki-tikki was bounding all round Nagaina, keeping just out of reach of her stroke, his little eyes like hot-coals. Nagaina gathered herself together and flung out at him. Rikki-tikki jumped up and backward. Again and again and again she struck.

Rikki-tikki-tavi – Rudyard Kipling

If we want to build a character a certain way, we can use evaluative action verbs. For example, rather than saying Sam walked down the street, we can represent Sam positively (Sam skipped down the street) or negatively (Sam slunk down the street). Derewianka (2011) p17.

Activity 2: saying verbs

Place students in groups and ask them to brainstorm “better words to use than said”. Students can use authentic texts to search for alternatives to the word ‘said’. You can generally test whether a verb is potentially a ‘saying verb’ by asking whether it can be followed by items such as ‘that’ ‘whether’ or ‘what’. Students should explore the different saying verbs (pleaded, whispered, responded, sighed) in guided reading and discuss how these can be more effective than the word said. Ask children to read speech in the manner suggested by the saying verb: blubbered, stammered, croaked, hissed, whimpered.

Note: When looking at saying verbs we can also deal with the difference between direct and indirect speech and the punctuation of direct speech. Best learning occurs when teaching of concepts is connected. Derewianka (2011) p20.

Activity 3: sensing verbs

Sensing verbs reflect processes of our internal world. They are typically used in relation to humans – or non-humans given human-like qualities – describing what they think, feel, desire and perceive. Teachers can guide students to develop a vocabulary of sensing verbs under the headings suggested so that children have and use the correct meta-language when discussing their choice of vocabulary for a specific text.

Example of sensing verbs. Alternate verbs for thinking, feeling and wanting and perceiving
Derewianka (2011) p22

Another type of verb is where there is no action or relationship being described, simply a state. These types of verbs are introduced by the word ‘there’.

There was an old house on the hill.

There is a hole in your jeans.

There are no decent shows on television.

There was nothing to do.

There was not a breadth of air stirring.

This can be explored through guided reading. Choose quality children’s text such as, Beware of Dog, by Roald Dahl to explore existential verbs and discuss their purpose. Derewianka (2011) p25.

Activity 4: relating verbs

These are the verbs that do not represent actions, speaking, thoughts or feelings. Their job is to simply link two pieces of information. These are called ‘relating verbs’. The most common are ‘be’ and ‘have’ and variations of these. See Derewianka (2011) for a comprehensive list on p24. They are used throughout scientific and factual texts. Within the clause they explain what things are and what they have. They relate the unknown noun group to the known noun group; typical of definitions.

Task: (This activity can be used with students from ES1)

How to begin learning the skills of research using key words:

Choose a topic and text relevant to the class and student learning needs. Create a copy of the chart below and during guided reading help students look for clauses that: join information using being verbs (is, are); clauses joined by having verbs (have, having, has) and clauses expressing actions. By looking for key information sorted into clause types children, from a young age learn not to copy chunks of information when researching a topic and at the same time learn about basic sentence structure and clause structure.

TOPIC: CATS

Relating verbs
What they are? (Being verbs)What they have? (Having verbs)What they do? (Action verbs)
mammalssharp clawspurr and hiss
domestic animals soft furpounce
petslong tailhunt

Activity 5: existing verbs

Another type of verb is where there is no action or relationship being described, simply a state. These types of verbs are introduced by the word ‘there’.

  • there was an old house on the hill
  • there is a hole in your jeans
  • there are no decent shows on television
  • there was nothing to do
  • there was not a breadth of air stirring.

This can be explored through guided reading. Choose quality children’s text such as, Beware of Dog, by Roald Dahl to explore existential verbs and discuss their purpose. Derewianka (2011) p25.

Online resources

Verb rap song on YouTube

What are verbs? www.grammar-monster.com/lessons/verbs

Practice verbs with fun games www.turtlediary.com/kids-games/ela-topics/verb-games

Other resources

A New Grammar Companion for Teachers, Beverly Derewianka 2011, Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA), Sydney. http://www.petaa.edu.au

Premiers Reading Challenge online.det.nsw.edu.au/prc/booklist/home

References

Australian curriculum reference

ACELA1482 Understand that verbs represent different processes, for example doing, thinking, saying, and relating and that these processes are anchored in time through tense

NSW syllabus reference

EN2_9B: Uses effective and accurate sentence structure, grammatical features, punctuation conventions and vocabulary relevant to the type of text when responding to and composing texts.

NSW literacy continuum reference

WRIC9M7: Aspects of writing, Cluster 9, Marker 7: Chooses verbs, adverbials, nouns and adjectivals to express specific ideas and details

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