Types of verbs, general to specific
Students in Stage 3 and above need to move from general ‘all-purpose verbs’ to more specific words for example, from cut to slice, dice, fillet and segment.
Knowing that verbs often represent actions and the choice of more expressive verbs makes an action more vivid e.g., ‘She ate her lunch’ compared to ‘She gobbled her lunch’.
Students will need to be taught metalanguage to describe the language features they will be discussing.
What is happening?
Our experiences are generally made up of different kinds of doings, happening sand 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
Exploring language using Guided Reading and discussion is a key strategy to improving the writing of students. Understanding how language works through making the connections explicit between the three language modes; Talking and Listening, Reading and Writing is crucial to learning to be successful users of Language.
Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA)
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. www.petaa.edu.au Follow the link to purchase a copy of the book and join PETAA.
Quality Picture Books
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
Activity 1: action verbs
Older students need to read more challenging fiction and non-fiction texts to be exposed to more challenging vocabulary. In Science, when reading more advanced procedures, the action verbs need to be more precise so that the procedure will be successful (e.g. dissolve, dilute, transfer, insert or filter instead of simply add or put).
Older students might also use well-selected actions verbs to construct a series of events in an historical account. They can read the text and highlight the sequence of action verbs used.
In narratives teachers should look for texts that create an ‘action sequence’ in the story to model to students how professional writers create a sense of dynamic action as in the story of Rikki-tikki-tavi by Rudyard Kipling.
Older children can be shown that action verbs can be used in a metaphorical way. Reading quality poetry can demonstrate to students how to use action verbs metaphorically. Students can then create their own texts and images improvising on the text.
Deep glass-green seas
with their green-glass jaws.
But little waves
and nibble softly at the sand
The strong fierce wind
constructs massive dunes
with its strong fierce breath
The garbage bin
The big hungry bin
gobbles up rubbish
with its gaping mouth
Activity 2: saying verbs
In guided reading students could explore the different saying verbs used (e.g. pleaded, whispered, responded, sighed) and discuss how these can be more effective than said.
In Stage 3 students need to understand that saying verbs can be used to provide an insight into a character. The way a character speaks and interacts with others provides clues as to their personality. For example, J.K. Rowling in the Harry Potter Series of books develops her characters through well-chosen saying verbs.
Instead of saying, “He was a belligerent spoilt child”, J.K. Rowling gives an insight into the character by using choice saying verbs.
- “Make it move,” he whined
- “Do it again,” he ordered
- “This is boring,” he moaned
Activity 3: sensing verbs
Thinking verbs are used to express processes of cognition and can feature in texts such as arguments and discussions where we are interested in people’s ideas and opinions or in stories where a character is reflecting. Sensing verbs are concerned not only with people’s thoughts but with their feelings and desires. People express their emotions in texts such as novels, poems songs and blogs.
Sensing verbs also encompass actions of perceptions – those that involve the use of our senses: seeing, hearing, tasting and smelling.
Send students on a Senses Walk and get them to record images and words to describe what they hear, what they see, what they feel/touch, what they smell and if appropriate what they taste.
|What I hear?||crickets chirping, birds tweeting||(blank)|
|What I can feel/touch?||rough bark, smooth leaves, soft moss, crunching gravel||(blank)|
|What I smell?||eucalyptus leaves, lavender||(blank)|
|What I taste||Bush tucker - tangy finger limes||(blank)|
|What I see?||Tall shady trees, wild grass, birds and insects flowers||(blank)|
Activity 4: modal verbs
Modal verbs express the degree to which we are willing to entertain other possibilities. Most students use modality in blunt and unsophisticated ways. Students need to be given the opportunity to learn to use modality in more subtle ways as it involves making judgements about personal relationships and how to interact with others in socially appropriate ways, particularly in genres which involve persuading people.
Teachers also need to explore and be aware of the cultural differences that may impact on the patterns of modality.
Using Role Play to act out and discuss real situations where the degree of certainty and the reactions generated can be explored is a fun way to explore the subtle patterns of modality. For example:
Provide students with a few scenarios which employ high modality and then the same scenario using low modality. Discuss the impact of the interactions based on the choice of modality. This is especially important to help children with Autism Spectrum Disorder to understand the subtleties of language use and appropriate reactions.
Scenario 1: high modality
Child 1: Stop what you are doing. You have to help me!
Child 2: (what response would child 2 give?)
Scenario 1: Low Modality
Child 1: Could you please stop what you are doing and help me?
Child 2: (what response would child 2 give now?)
What type of modality is more effective in this scenario? Why?
Scenario 2: high modality
Police (shouting): We must evacuate now, the fire is spreading!
Family: (What response would the family give here?)
Scenario 2: Low Modality
Police: I would like to please ask you to evacuate now because the fire is spreading rapidly.
Family: (What response would the family give here?)
What type of modality is more appropriate here? Why?
Scenarios can become more sophisticated as students and learning needs mature. These role plays can further be complemented using quality literature whereby scenes using degree of modality can be dramatised, or using letters to the editor in newspapers, advertisements and using a combination of multimodal texts whereby modality is used.
Help students create a mind map using modal verbs (www.biggerplate.com/mapImages):
To purchase A New Grammar Companion for Teachers, Beverly Derewianka 2011, Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA), Sydney, please go to: www.petaa.edu.au
Examples of Class displays on pinterest:
Australian curriculum reference
ACELA1523 Understand how ideas can be expanded and sharpened through careful choice of verbs, elaborated tenses and a range of adverb groups/phrases.
NSW syllabus reference
EN3-6B: Uses knowledge of sentence structure, grammar, punctuation and vocabulary to respond to and compose clear and cohesive texts in different media and text.
NSW literacy continuum reference
COMC12M7: Comprehension, Cluster 12, Marker 7: Analyses texts to compare how language structures and features are used to position readers and viewers.