Standard Lesson

More than One Way to Create Vivid Verbs

6 - 8
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Three 50-minute sessions
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After reviewing specific nouns, students create a two-column list of nouns and ordinary verbs specific to a particular occupation. They then pair a specific noun from the first column with an occupation-related verb from the second column to create descriptive lines with vivid verbs being used in a different context. The trick lies in the fact that the verbs must be used in a new way, having nothing to do with the occupation. Often this approach to writing leads to a natural metaphorical passage as a result. Students refine this writing strategy by rotating through computer stations, each housing a descriptive passage begun by other students, revising and suggesting improvements or just adding lines to the descriptive passages.

This lesson plan was developed as part of a collaborative professional writing initiative sponsored by the Kennesaw Mountain Writing Project (KMWP) at Kennesaw State University.

From Theory to Practice

Sandra Whitaker states that: "William E. Nagy and Richard C. Anderson indicate that children must learn approximately three thousand to four thousand words each year just to access what the next grade has to offer (322). That seemingly impossible number comes within reach only when teachers employ a variety of highly effective strategies that deepen students' understanding of language structures, pique their interest in wordplay, and transfer words from receptive to productive vocabulary." (45) In Image Grammar, Harry Noden suggests just such a strategy, used by poet Natalie Goldberg, in which students transplant ordinary verbs in one context into another totally different context. Both writers have found success with this technique in teaching students. In particular, this writing technique appeals to the struggling writer who just cannot think of words that are vivid verbs.

Further Reading

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.

Materials and Technology

Access to computer lab with network printer



  • Students should be familiar with the basic parts of speech before this lesson. If necessary, review the definitions and characteristics of nouns and verbs before beginning this lesson. The Websites Wide World of Verbs and Guide to Grammar and Style—P can be used in your review.

  • Make copies or an overhead transparency of the Vivid Verbs Teacher Examples Sheet.

  • If you plan to complete the extension activity, test the Acrostic Poems tool on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tool and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page. Additionally, make copies or an overhead transparency of the example acrostic poem to share with the class.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • distinguish between vague and vivid verbs.

  • convert ordinary verbs into vivid verbs.

  • write descriptive passages use varied strategies.

  • evaluate other students' writing for the specificity and visual imagery of their verbs.

Session One

  1. Conduct a review of specific nouns with students.

  2. Ask students to write a brief description of their bedroom at its peak of "messiness."

  3. Allow volunteers to share their descriptions.

  4. Next, instruct students to make a list of specific nouns (things) that might be found scattered or piled around their bedroom.

  5. After they have created their lists, ask students to revise the description of their room to include these nouns.

  6. Finally, share responses and ask students to identify which descriptions were more vivid. Was it the first or second writing?

  7. Remind students of the power of specific nouns.

  8. If the descriptions from this session will be used in Session Three and you have computer access for that session, ask students to save their work if they are working at computers or have them type and save the work by the beginning of Session Three.

Session Two

  1. Do not preview the end activity of this session in any way. Students should not know the next step until it is time to complete the next step.

  2. Ask students to fold a sheet of notebook paper lengthwise.

  3. On the left-hand side of the paper, have students randomly list 10 to 20 specific nouns. Explain that the nouns should not relate to each other in any way.

  4. On the right-hand side of the paper, ask students should list 5 to 10 verbs that are specific to a particular occupation. For example, they might choose the following words for the occupation of chef: slice, dice, chop, stir, marinate, baste.

  5. Emphasize that the verbs should not relate to the nouns in the left-hand column in any way.

  6. Finally, instruct students to combine a noun from the left-hand column with a verb in the right-hand column to form a line of description. Explain that the description should NOT relate to the student's chosen occupation.

  7. Using sentences from the Vivid Verbs eacher Examples Sheet, model a few examples for students.

  8. Have students write their own sentences, working with peers if desired.

  9. Five minutes before the session ends, invite volunteers to share sentences with the class.

Session Three

  1. To apply their understand of vivid verb writing, explain that students will evaluate their peers' writing and revise one another's writing in the computer lab.
    If computers are not available, students can write on notebook paper. They will simply need to rewrite the sentences they revise rather then using the word processor's copy-and-paste function.
  2. Have students choose a piece of writing for this peer review session:

    1. If students are working on a descriptive writing project, have them choose a paragraph or two from their current draft.

    2. If you want to use a piece of writing that students have already written, ask students to type the description of their rooms from the first session or to open word processor file of the description if it has been typed earlier. If students are working without computers, have them simply get out a written or printed copy of the description.

    3. If you want to have students write something new, share the assignment that you want them to complete and allow time for them to write their pieces. If working with computers, remind students to save the passage.

  3. Once students have the piece of writing ready, explain the process for the peer review session:

    1. At set intervals (perhaps every 3 minutes), students will rotate around the room, moving to the next computer or paper.

    2. At each computer, students will read the contributions by their peers.

    3. Each student will then copy and paste a peer's line to revise, if working at computers. If working with print copies, students can copy, highlight, or circle the sentence; draw an arrow if appropriate, and then write their revised version of the sentence.

    4. The student will type his or her name on the own contribution.

  4. Begin the process of rotating among papers, attempting to have students respond to at least three different papers.

  5. With about five minutes left in the session, end the rotations, and if working at computers, ask students to print out the results of the descriptive writings.

  6. Have students submit the revisions and review the work. You can use these pieces for further analytical discussions in later class sessions.


Returning to their two-column chart from Session Two, have students use the words from the chart to compose acrostic poems. Have students choose a noun from the left column as the subject of their acrostic poems, and create the lines of their poem using verbs from the right column of the chart. After students have done some preliminary drafting, have them create final versions of their poems with the Acrostic Poems tool. If desired, share the example acrostic poem which uses words from the Vivid Verbs Teacher Examples Sheet.

Student Assessment / Reflections

Check students’ work for completion, using the following questions as guidelines:

  • Did the student accurately follow the directions of the activity?

  • Was the verb used in a different way from original context?

  • Did the new use of the word accurately and vividly paint the desired image?

  • Was the student able to improve writing through the evaluation and revision process?

Save formal assessment for students’ future work. In these drafts, look for evidence that students are using vivid verbs to increase the descriptive language in their composition.


Anne Dreiling
K-12 Teacher
I really like thirs activity and plan to use it this year. Could you send me an example of how you would do the acrostic after you have generated the two columns of random nouns and random verbs?
Anne Dreiling
K-12 Teacher
I really like thirs activity and plan to use it this year. Could you send me an example of how you would do the acrostic after you have generated the two columns of random nouns and random verbs?
Anne Dreiling
K-12 Teacher
I really like thirs activity and plan to use it this year. Could you send me an example of how you would do the acrostic after you have generated the two columns of random nouns and random verbs?

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