A Step-by-Step Strategy For Teaching Action and Linking Verbs To Secondary Students

Teaching action and linking verbs at the secondary level is critical for students to review strong writing and craft. Although it might not seem necessary to go over verbs at this level, the fact is that many high school students need to work with verbs in the context of their own writing.

Short on time: scroll to the bottom of this blog post to grab our free download for teaching vivid verbs to your secondary students!

Most secondary students have some working knowledge of what verbs are, however they don’t necessarily have enough understanding of verbs to think about how to use them to craft better writing. This is why it’s absolutely essential that we review what verbs are and teach them in the context of how to use them in writing. 

When a writer is intentional about her verbs, her writing becomes more clear and the writer can depend less on other words, which helps with clarity and brevity. When students rely on action verbs more than linking verbs, they can say more in fewer words, and this is what we are aiming for in most types of writing!

The Difference Between Action and Linking Verbs

Action verbs are used to describe a physical or mental action performed by the subject of a sentence. For example, “She danced at the Taylor Swift concert,” or “He played soccer with Lionel Messi.” These verbs show what the subject is doing, and they provide an important detail in describing an event or situation.

Linking verbs, on the other hand, connect the subject of a sentence to a noun, pronoun, or adjective that describes or renames it. They do not show action but instead indicate a state of being or condition. For example, “She seems lovely” or “He is a bounty hunter.” These verbs provide important information about the subject’s identity or characteristics.

Pro tip: anytime you’re explaining grammar to your students, try to include some pop culture references to wake them up. 

How To Teach Action and Linking Verbs

Since this subject will likely seem somewhat familiar to your students, they may be tempted to zone out right from the beginning, so you have to engage them from the beginning of the lesson and assure them that this does matter, it will be fun, and at the end of the lesson, they will be better writers. Here’s how to do that. 

Step 1: Start With A “Would You Rather” Game

First, ask your students a few “Would you rather questions.” Be sure you get some great action verbs in there. Have fun with this! Studies show that when people are in a good mood with their defenses down, they learn better, so it’s always a great idea to start class with a game or low-stakes warm up that helps students lower their defenses. 

Step 2: Give Brief Direct Instruction With Guided Notes

After a short warm-up game, it is necessary to then give some brief direct instruction. You do need to spend a few minutes telling them explicitly what linking verbs are and what action verbs are. Now, if you are pretty confident they already know this perhaps you could skip straight to the mentor sentences, but it’s best to go over it, at least briefly. 

Although many secondary students know what action verbs are, they do typically get confused on linking verbs. So, spend a few minutes there. 

Then, be sure to show students a side-by-side comparison of sentences that use linking verbs and those that use action verbs. 

Want to see how this works? Scroll to the bottom of this post and download our free slideshow on action and linking verbs. 

Step 3: Showcase Fantastic Mentor Sentences With Action and Linking Verbs

After you’ve given your students some brief, direct instruction on linking and vivid verbs, show them a few fantastic mentor sentences that use verbs well. 

It’s great to draw from books that students have read, although you can also draw from classics. Ask students what verbs they notice in these sentences and how the sentence would be different with less vivid verbs. Try to change out a few of the verbs, and watch how it changes the entire meaning of the sentence. Verbs are important! 

Pull out quote that says "showcase mentor sentences with both action and linking verbs for students to discuss and imitate."

Step 4: Use Sentence Frames For Students To Practice Using Action and Linking Verbs

After observing mentor sentences, have your students craft a few sentences of their own in the same style as the mentor sentences they observed. You can do this by giving your students a sentence frame where the only words that they have to come up with are the verbs. 

Give them a few minutes to craft some great sentences, and let them play around with different verbs. 

Step 5: Use Picture and Video Prompts To Practice Writing With Verbs

When teaching action and linking verbs, just like teaching any grammar concept, you have to allow students an immediate opportunity to use the concept in their writing, or the idea won’t stick.

To accomplish this, allow students to watch an animated short or any high-interest clip that involves people doing something. You can look up stunt videos on youtube, show a clip of a recent NFL game, or anything else you think your students might perk up for. 

Show the clip, and then have students write several sentences about the clip using action verbs. The more vivid these action verbs, the better. Challenge students to avoid all linking verbs, and see if they can do it! 

Step 6: Have Students Evaluate Their Writing From The Class Period

For students to become more confident in their writing, it’s essential that they spend time looking at what they’ve crafted, reflect on it, and ideally share it. They could share their best sentence from the period with the whole class or a partner. These small “wins” move students closer to feeling like they are truly writers. 

Here is your free content on action and linking verbs:

Note: these are free downloads! If you are using Chrome and it blocks the download, try using another browser, or contact us at missy@englishteachervault.com.

Want access to everything in the parts of speech unit? Click here.

Parts of Speech Unit includes:

  • Action and Linking Verbs Lesson and Guided Notes
  • Using Strong Nouns Lesson and Guided Notes
  • Well-Placed Adjectives Lesson and Guided Notes
  • Well-Placed Adverbs Lesson and Guided Notes
  • Hands-On Verbs Game
  • Review Game For Parts of Speech
  • 10 Quick Writes For Writing Practice
  • Parts of Speech Quiz

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