In this post I’ll give you a strategy that can help students understand that verbs power sentences and create motion picture images. Students often choose weak verbs like ‘went’, ‘looked’ or ‘moved‘ whereas professional authors avoid these to keep action moving. Some students have trouble of thinking of verbs and the activity below is a good way to help them.

In The Art of the Sentence I provided a slide deck to support your students to use action verbs, but in this post I want to provide a simple teaching activity teaching activity from Natalie Goldberg which may be useful during this period of remote learning.

Natalie Goldberg in Writing Down the Bones designed an activity called “The Action of a Sentence”.

The Action of a Sentence

  1. Fold a sheet of paper in half.
  2. On the left fold, students write ten or more nouns
  3. On the right fold students create a list of 10 or more verbs from a specific occupation. Goldberg says “Think of an occupation; for example a carpenter, a doctor, a flight attendant,”
  4. Unfold the list and create interesting combinations and sentences.

Here is Goldberg’s example:

Natalie Goldberg – Writing Down the Bones, p88

Here are some of the interesting images she came up with:

  • Dinosaurs marinate the earth
  • The lilacs sliced the sky into purple
  • The fiddles boiled the air with their music

This would be a simple task to assign students during remote learning.

Other resources

Here is a blog post from Andrea Badgley where she completes the exercise. It’s interesting to see her combinations and how she went further with the task.

Read, Write, Think has a resource for 3 x 50 minute lessons which you might find useful to adapt for your context.

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