Teaching Well-Placed Adverbs

Love them or hate them, adverbs are a part of the English language, and teaching students how to use them well (and sometimes sparingly) can give students another tool in their writing toolbox. Read on for some insight on how to teach students about the well-placed adverb.

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What Is An Adverb…

…and why do students need to know about them? Adverbs are a word or phrase that modifies an adjective, verb, or other adverb or group of words. It gives you more information or qualifications such as place, time, circumstances, cause, etc.

Knowing how to use adverbs strategically takes writing to the next level. It can set apart the written works of students, especially if they know where to place them without overuse. Adverbs and adverb phrases are also commonly seen on standardized tests and often get confused with adjectives. So while many students are somewhat familiar with the general idea of an adverb, their knowledge is often a bit murky.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of adverbs, be sure to grab my free parts of speech unit, so that you have 7 ready-to-go lessons for teaching grammar in an engaging way!

parts of speech unit

Getting Started with Adverbs

It is much easier to break grammar lessons into terms and review them one at a time. I like to place this lesson after we have covered nouns, verbs, and adjectives. These are usually straightforward. I also might slow down or break apart this lesson depending on the actual knowledge base of my students. Be prepared to slow down or have multiple examples you can use to review beyond the lesson.

I use warm-up activities to help my students get engaged with the lesson. If I just start with writing definitions, I will lose the class and struggle with any other activity I put together. My examples include whatever I’m covering in the lesson. In this case, I ask “would you rather” scenarios that include adverbs and adverb phrases. This is just an informal class activity or something they answer in pairs. I can then point out the adverbs or see what my students know about adverbs by having them find a few examples.

slideshow of adverbs lesson with a would you rather question that includes adverbs

Working With Adverbs

After this, go into direct instruction. I always have my students doing something throughout the lesson. During direct instruction, I give my class handouts with guided notes so they can follow along with the information. I also include mentor sentences as my examples – and I use a lot to ensure my students can see a plethora of examples.

Aside from the definition of an adverb, I will point out important information. Like how an adverb doesn’t just modify verbs even though adjectives only modify nouns. I’ll show examples of adverbs modifying other types of words. We will also go over what questions an adverb will answer.

We will also discuss that there are adverb phrases. Oftentimes I keep this as a separate part of the lesson. If my students are struggling with the concept, are getting burnt out, or simply don’t have the time in class to go over the full lesson, we will save it for another day. It gives us another opportunity to discuss adverbs and then go deeper.

How to Use Adverbs in Writing

Throughout the lesson, we will read mentor sentences. Not only do I have students identify the adverbs or adverb phrases, but I also discuss where they are in the sentence. Many adverbs are “opening adverbs” and are sentence starters. Those examples are quickly identified. But my students will also look at where else they could appear in the sentence. We can discuss how that changes the meaning of the sentence or even the flow of reading.

adverbs worksheet

Deeper into my lesson I use examples from writers like Mark Twain who riddle their work with adverbs galore. By this point, my students should be able to identify adverbs and adverb phrases throughout a sentence. We can then look deeper at the writing itself. We start applying knowledge to writing. In the case of our Mark Twain example, my students think about if there are too many adverbs. Some enjoy the “overuse” because of how vivid a description they have in front of them.

I also will have students begin working with sentence frames. This is where I give them a sentence almost fully constructed and they just need to fill in the blanks with the topic of the lesson. In this case, they come up with their own adverbs and adverb phrases. Later I will have them work on completely unique sentences and examples. I often show picture prompts or short videos on which students will base their practice examples. Your students can then share in a pair, or work on a class list of examples when completed.

picture of a computer screen with a mentor sentence and an imitation sentence

Need a Place to Start?

If you aren’t already invested in the English Teacher Vault, this resource and many more are already created and waiting for you. There are bundles of grammar lessons that include slideshows, handouts, printable resources, and more. You can follow this link to join. You can also find a few tips and tricks throughout my blog – I recommend starting here with keeping interest in grammar lessons.

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