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

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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • add adjectives, precise verbs, and specific nouns to sentences.
  • combine sentences.
  • combine and eliminate words in wordy sentences.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

1 hour


  • Blank transparency
  • Sentences written on note cards (see step 4)
  • Vis-a Vis Markers (different colors for editing)
  • Discovering the Right Word transparency: pdf | rtf

Technology resources

Overhead Projector



  1. Show the following weakly written sentence on a transparency:
    The shiny shirt was pretty.
  2. Model revising the sentence as follows:
    The rhinestone-studded shirt glittered under the lights.
  3. Discuss the changes that help the reader picture the shirt, such as adding adverbs, precise verbs, and specific nouns.
  4. Continue using the same procedure with the following examples for using specific nouns. Point out to students the importance of using specific nouns rather than vague nouns.
    Weak Example: He met him at the park.
    Strong Example: Grey met Brandon at the park.
  5. Point out to students the importance of using details to reveal emotions.
    Weak Example: She was sad.
    Strong Example: She couldn’t hide her tear-stained cheeks and red eyes.

Guided Practice

  1. Divide the class into six groups. Give each group one of the following sentences written on a note card:
    • I saw a dog.
    • There is a tree.
    • I am dirty.
    • I wore a hat.
    • The chair is red.
    • The sun came up.
  2. Direct the students to work together to revise the sentences so the reader can picture the idea, by using adverbs, precise verbs, and precise nouns.
  3. Allow students to share the revisions. Note examples of revisions that used words to create strong visual images.

Followup Lesson

  1. Put the following weakly-written sentence on the transparency:
    She ate her dinner.
  2. Model revising the sentence by improving the verb:
    She devoured her dinner.
  3. Give each group one of the following sentences, written on a note card:
    • I put my paper in the trash.
    • I looked at the clock.
    • Jill fell down the hill.
    • The horse walked around the pasture.
    • Henry hit the ball.
    • Jose ran down the hall.
  4. Direct students to revise the sentences by improving the verbs.
  5. Allow students to share revised sentences.
  6. Point out to the students that they have revised by choosing strong verbs.


Can students add visual adjectives, precise verbs, and precise nouns to the sentences provided?

Supplemental information

Examples of other followup lessons

  • Revising Each Sentence or Line: Students may wish to reorder or revise words within sentences or lines to strengthen the meaning conveyed to the reader as well as to add interest.
    Weak Example: I felt bad about the situation.
    Strong Example: My eyes swelled with tears over the situation.
    Being too wordy can also be confusing. Students need to see how to use as few words as necessary to relay the desired meaning.
    Weak Example: The wood cabinet made of oak was beautiful, and we decided to buy it right then.
    Strong Example: Immediately we decided to buy the beautiful oak cabinet.
  • Revising Individual Words: Revising at the word level is important fine tuning. This is the time to have students utilize the thesaurus and dictionary. Here are some tips:
    • Use interesting “visual” words
    • Weak Example: The shiny shirt was pretty.
      Strong Example: The rhinestone-studded vest dazzled everyone.
    • Strengthen with strong verbs
    • Weak Example: She ate her dinner.
      Strong Example: She devoured her dinner.
    • Clarify with specific pronouns
    • Weak Example: He met him at the park.
      Strong Example: Grey met Brandon at the park.
    • Clarify vague concepts
    • Weak Example: Hunter and Jacob played a game.
      Strong Example: Hunter and Jacob played soccer.
    • Use sensory detail to evoke emotion
    • Weak Example: She was sad.
      Strong Example: She couldn’t hide her tear-stained cheeks and red eyes.

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

        • 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 4

  • 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.
  • Goal 5: The learner will apply grammar and language conventions to communicate effectively.
    • Objective 5.03: Elaborate information and ideas in writing and speaking by using:
      • simple and compound sentences.
      • regular and irregular verbs.
      • adverbs.
      • prepositions.
      • coordinating conjunctions.