Lesson plan

Action Verb Synonyms

Using the same action verbs all the time can get old. Help your students spice up their writing by teaching them to identify and use action verbs. Your young writers will explore synonyms to improve their repertoire of action verbs.
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Students will be able to identify and use action verbs in sentences.

(2 minutes)
Action Verbs
  • Display the following sentences on the board:
    • They said they would eat breakfast before going to the ski slope. The family said they’d never been skiing before. “Are you ready to go?” said Dad. They said, “Yes.”
  • Call on nonvolunteers to share what is wrong with the sentences. Prompt the class to think about a particular word that is repeated a few times.
  • Explain to students that it would get really boring to hear the same verbs repeated in a story. The author of these sentences needs to think of some other action verbs to use instead of repeating SaidIn each sentence.
(8 minutes)
  • Read the student objective today and have students repeat it. Explain that today’s lesson will be about using good, strong action verbs. An Action verbIs a verb that expresses physical or mental action. It tells what the subject does, whether it is physical or mental.
  • Explain that some verbs work in sentences, but they are not very descriptive. Such verbs include, Were, are, is, amAnd these are called stative verbs. They are verbs that mean “to be.” Share that action verbs are more descriptive, but even some action verbs are overused. Share some common, basic action verbs that are often found in student writing, such as Said, thought, ran, get, know.
  • Explain that, while these action verbs do describe what the subject is doing, they can be replaced by words that mean the same thing, but are more interesting. A SynonymIs a word that has the same meaning.
  • Provide an example of a set of synonyms: interesting, entertaining. Point out that these are examples of synonyms, but they are not action verbs.
  • Model coming up with a list of synonyms for the action verb Said.(muttered, blurted, cheered, replied, retorted, whispered, yelled, cried, explained, offered)
  • Choose a few of the synonyms to rewrite the sentences from the Introduction to make them more interesting for the reader. Explain that the new action verbs give the reader a clear sense of the situation. Instead of something simply being stated, it could be whispered. This gets the reader thinking about how the characters are talking to each other, and why they are whispering. A strong synonym gives the reader more insight into the story.
(15 minutes)
  • Give each student an index card with an action verb on it. Instruct them to find their synonym partner. Once they have found partners, they should find a place to sit together in the classroom. That will be the signal that they have found their partner and are ready to move on. Direct students to discuss what other words are synonyms for their action verbs while waiting.
  • Distribute a copy of the Action Verbs worksheet to each student. Instruct partnerships to complete the worksheet together, discussing their answer choices.
  • Go over the worksheet by calling on nonvolunteers to provide an answer. Then, call on another nonvolunteer to either agree or disagree with the answer and explain why.
(10 minutes)
  • Distribute a piece of blank paper to each student.
  • Instruct students to find a synonym for each of the following action verbs: Help, walk, like, make, eat.Then, direct them to write a sentence with each of the action verb synonyms. They should circle the action verb in each sentence.


  • Intentionally group students together in the partner activity based on academic or behavioral needs.
  • Provide learners with a simple set of action verbs in the partner activity.
  • Give students a word bank of action verbs and their synonyms to use during the partner work and independent work.
  • Provide grammar pre-lessons for students, focusing on synonyms and verbs. Have students start with a basic understanding of each concept before this lesson that combines the two concepts.
  • Allow students access to a thesaurus in order to pick out synonyms for action verbs.


  • Have advanced students choose a paragraph out of their independent reading book. Instruct them to rewrite the paragraph using action verb synonyms.
  • Challenge students to come up with several synonyms for the same action verb.
(4 minutes)
  • Use the Independent practise exercise as a formative assessment of students’ ability to use action verbs in sentences.
  • Give each student a sticky note on which to respond to the following: "Which of the following action verb synonyms creates a stronger sentence? Ask or Beg"
  • Instruct students to write down their choice of action verb and explain why they think it creates a stronger sentence.
(2 minutes)
  • Remind students that strong action verbs, which we often come up with when we think about synonyms, are important to us as readers and writers. They allow the readers to gain clearer insight into the story, and they allow the writers to be more descriptive in their writing.

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