K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • recognize more exact verbs in literature.
  • use more precise verbs in their writing.
  • write a narrative paper using a personal experience.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

2 days



The students should have an understanding of the narrative writing process, as well as an understanding of the differences between imaginative and personal writing prompts.


Day 1


  1. Discuss the importance of using exact words in narrative writing.
  2. Inform the students that you are going to read to them a short book that uses specific words for the verbs “went,” “said,” and “put.”
  3. Read the story Mortimer Mooner Makes Lunch by Frank B. Edwards.
  4. List on the board (chart paper, poster board) the words “went,” “said,” and “put.”
  5. Instruct students that you are going to read the story again, and after each page you are going to stop and pull exact words from the story that fit one of the three categories of words.
  6. Discuss the variation in meaning of each of the precise verbs to the more common headings.

Guided Practice

  1. Put a sample personal narrative on the overhead. Have students identify 5 vague verbs in the draft that could be more precise. Underline the 5 verbs. Using the list of precise verbs pulled from the story, substitute more precise verbs in the draft. Model using editing marks from editing chart (e.g., carets) to insert new words and delete old words.
  2. Give small groups of students copies of another sample narrative. Have each group underline 5 vague verbs and replace with a more precise verb. Have groups share their new versions.

Day 2

Independent practice

Writing assignment: Follow the usual routine of writing a personal narrative in your class.

Sample Prompt: Think about a time you were late getting somewhere. It might be to school, class, church, or somewhere else. Write a first draft telling about that time.

Instruct students to underline five verbs in their rough draft. Display the list of words you created during Day 1 of the lesson. Instruct the students to revise their drafts by inserting these more exact verbs in their story (using appropriate editing marks). Share the revised draft with a partner.


The papers will be assessed using the Style Feature of Effective Writing from the scoring rubrics guide established by the NC Fourth Grade Writing Test.

Supplemental information


I also scanned several of the pages and deleted some of the exact verbs. I had the students copy the sentences and fill in their own exact verbs. They really enjoyed finding out if they chose the same word the author chose.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • Language

        • Grade 3
          • 3.L.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships and nuances in word meanings. 3.L.5.1 Distinguish the literal and nonliteral meanings of words and phrases in context (e.g., take steps). 3.L.5.2 Identify real-life connections between...
        • Grade 4
          • 4.L.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings. 4.L.5.1 Explain the meaning of simple similes and metaphors (e.g., as pretty as a picture) in context. 4.L.5.2 Recognize and explain the meaning of common...
      • Writing

        • Grade 3
          • 3.W.5 With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, and editing.
        • Grade 4
          • 4.W.5 With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, and editing.

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Arts (2004)

Grade 3

  • Goal 4: The learner will apply strategies and skills to create oral, written, and visual texts.
    • Objective 4.08: Focus reflection and revision (with assistance) on target elements by:
      • clarifying ideas.
      • adding descriptive words and phrases.
      • sequencing events and ideas.
      • combining short, related sentences.
      • strengthening word choice.

Grade 4

  • Goal 3: The learner will make connections with text through the use of oral language, written language, and media and technology.
    • Objective 3.01: Respond to fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama using interpretive, critical, and evaluative processes by:
      • analyzing the impact of authors' word choice and context.
      • examining the reasons for characters' actions.
      • identifying and examining characters' motives.
      • considering a situation or problem from different characters' points of view.
      • analyzing differences among genres.
      • making inferences and drawing conclusions about characters, events and themes.
  • Goal 4: The learner will apply strategies and skills to create oral, written, and visual texts.
    • Objective 4.08: Focus revision on a specific element such as:
      • word choice.
      • sequence of events and ideas.
      • transitional words.
      • sentence patterns.