Teach English Writing with New Verbs

English Writing Activities to Explore Words

Verbs are an important part of writing with style. They add variety and can be very descriptive. Sometimes, students rely on a small set of verbs. That can make student writing a little dull.

This ESL writing activity helps students expand their awareness of word choice. It introduces writers to a brave new world of verbs, even though they may be familiar with the words as nouns.

Activity Flow

Part 1 ESL Writing Activity Introduction

Describe the learning objectives:

  • to improve the quality of writing by learning new verbs;
  • to improve writing skills by completing practice exercises with complex and compound sentences;
  • to improve learning by completing word substitution exercises.

Part 2 Word List

Look at these 15 words. Can you divide them into three equal groups based on some common characteristics? (Here’s a pdf file with the words and answers.)

  • eye   book   horse   sandwich   back
  • foot   bug   box   tap   chicken
  • duck   elbow   pocket   hog   head

Part 3 Answers

All of the words can be divided into three groups: body parts, animals and things around the house. In addition, all of these words can be used as verbs.

1  eye, foot, elbow, back, head

2  duck, bug, horse, hog, chicken

3  book, box, pocket, tap, sandwich

Part 4 Meanings

Ask students to look over the words. They need to know how to use them as verbs. Spending time with a dictionary might be a good idea. Working in pairs might save time.

Remind students that some words might need a preposition in the verb form.

Part 5 Demonstrate Meaning

Students write one to three sentences for each verb. Be sure the context and meaning are easy to understand for each verb.

A simple sentence like, “John eyes the book” does not show an understanding of the word meaning.

For some classes, I give students more direct instructions.

  • For 5 verbs, be sure to include a complex sentence in the practice sentences.
  • For 5 additional verbs, include a compound sentence for each verb.

Part 6 Word Substitution

The attached pdf file has 15 practice questions. Ask students to rewrite the sentences by replacing a word or phrase with a verb from the list above that has a similar meaning.


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