Adjectives and Verbs: Grammar and Stlye

Apr 28, 2013
Posted by: Veronica

Verbs: Grammar and Style


In the absence of the almighty grammar book, most teachers have moved to using the “mini-lesson” as a means of teaching the important lessons on grammar that no one really wants to learn, but must. I have found this practice to be useful as my students are not found face down and drooling on their desks at the end of a grammar lesson, as I was back in the good ole days of hour long focused grammar instruction. The problem that I have found with this methodology however is that the students often do not translate the grammar lesson learned into their writing after the mini-lesson is presented.

When constructing a piece of creative writing, the grammar rules my students have the most trouble with are subject verb agreement and maintaining consistency in their verb tenses. Most pieces of writing I receive from them are riddled with these absent minded mistakes. When I first started teaching my reaction to this problem would be to ask the students with a very authoritative yet exasperated voice “Didn’t you have someone edit your paper?” This of course would be met with a barrage of nodding heads and unenthusiastic “Yes, Mrs. Peterson”. But after this same situation played out time and time again, I did what any effective teacher would do and investigated whether they could identify these mistakes in their own papers. I found that though the students understood the mini-lessons and could apply the rules learned in sentence correction exercises but, they found it challenging to look at a piece of their own writing and actually detect when these problem occurred.

I have found that the best way to help my students identify these grammatical errors within their own writing is to use different pieces that model correct subject verb agreement, and have them identify where it happens within the model. Then, after they are through critically analyzing someone else’s work, they can turn to their own piece if writing and begin the revision process with a vivid picture of what it is they are looking for. However, the students do not just simply read the two pieces and analyze using the ever famous “red pen approach”, instead they participate in a foldable activity that I have found adds a bit of variety to the lackluster editing process in writing.


Using the selection “Little River” by Lisa Lierz, from “The Best Teen Writing of 2012” as a model, have the students read through the story and record each subject and verb in every sentence. They will record these on a foldable. To do this take a line piece of paper and fold it length-wise into four sections. (Imitating the folding of a fan)For this lesson, I use only two of the sections for this activity; however you may wish to record other categories with a different purpose in mind. Title the first category as “Verb”. This will be where the students list all of the verbs in each sentence, starting with the first sentence in the story and going to the end. The second category will be titled “Subject”. They will then identify the subject in each of the sentence and write it down in the corresponding category.

It should look something like this:



“Little River” Verb

“Little River” Subject

Student’s Piece” Verb

Student’s Piece Subject












After the students are done re-coding all of the verbs and subjects, they then go through the list and make sure that all of the verbs agree with the corresponding subjects. You should anticipate that if the students do not identify both each verb and subject within the sentence, it will make identifying whether or not they agree impossible. Since the subjects and verbs must AGREE with one another in number (singular or plural), meaning, if a subject is singular, its verb must also be singular; if a subject is plural, its verb must also be plural, it will be very easy for the students to identify when the pairs do not agree with one another.

Since they are using a published piece of writing, the students will find that all pairs agree. The final step will be asking the students to use columns 3 and 4 for their own piece of writing (seen above). They will then record each verb and subject pair and analyze whether or not the pairs agree. It will be obvious to them when a problem has occurred. After this has been completed, the students will then go back into their writing and fix any subject-verb agreement issue they may have discovered.


Besides subject verb agreement, other grammatical and stylistic rules can be analyzed when looking at the list that has been produced. For example, when looking at the list of verbs one could identify whether or not the writer has any tense issues.

Resource: http://www.towson.edu/ows/moduleSVAGR.htm

Other Foldable Grammar and Style Lessons

Other problem areas in writing can be identified and fixed using the “foldable” method. For example, by writing down the first word in each sentence will help middle school students recognize inappropriate repetition in their writing. Another ideas would be to record every verb simply to see if the student lacks variety and complexity in their vocabulary. Finally, consistency in verb tense can be identified in a piece by recording the verbs used within a paragraph or paper.


I can't wait to use this

Submitted by Joshua on Sun, 2013-04-28 13:28.

I can't wait to use this foldable tool in my class for revising writing for more interesting vivid verbs. I might also adapt it for adjectives to challenge my students to use more interesting words instead of the usual dead words like "big, little, nice, good." Thanks!