Slice of Life Story - Juicy Verbs Can Make A Difference

Teaching young writers to embrace the idea of revision is not as difficult as it is often made out to be. If we approach the challenge from the view that a good piece of writing becomes even better with the application of a range of revision strategies, it is possible to change the pictures students hold in their heads. -the view that revision is either irksome, or unnecessary.

I often find myself chanting the mantra –Revision is the magic behind great writing.

To break down this resistance to revision, we need to teach student writers a range of revision strategies that allow them to witness the power of revision to almost instantly transform the writing, giving it greater clarity and reader connectedness.

Today, I worked with a Grade 4 class with whom I had not previously spent class time. We began by looking at some of their writing samples. After a short discussion, we agreed that our goal for the lesson was to ‘polish’ them a little.

I talked about verbs and how they provide the muscles for our writing. I showed them how I look closely at the way I have used verbs in my own writing. I refer to the verbs as needing to be vivid or juicy. I explained that these special words need to be active, rather than passive. I shared examples of writers I admire and how they use verbs to elevate their writing to greater heights.

I then invited them to look again at their own writing and underline the verbs they had used. We talked about junk verbs like ‘went’ and ‘had.’ I referred to these verbs as five cent verbs and encouraged them to look for five dollar replacements. They scanned their writing pieces for verbs with an immediate intensity. They were acting out the role of text detectives.

-And then we harvested the changes which I listed for all to see. They gave me strolled in place of walked. They gave me plummeted in place of fell. They gave me discovered in place of found –and the words kept coming, as they eagerly shared their simple revisions.

Following this, I encouraged them to find a partner and read the original version of their writing and the new and improved version and see what they noticed about the two versions. I wanted them to experience the before and after effect.

So now they had a strategy for revising verbs and they seemed to be enjoying the task. One small step in breaking down resistance to revision. Viva la verb!


  1. I always write on the board "Writing is revision," as so many of my students think the first draft is the final draft. I liked reading about your verbs as muscle--great concept as I see too many adjective strings trying to accomplish the task that one good verb can do.

    Great post.

  2. Great strategy Alan,
    As I work with teachers and students in creating digital stories I realize that teachers, just like kids don't really want to deal with revision. To them, editing and revision are the same things.
    So bring on the possibilities.
    I love weaving...

  3. So funny! I used to use the word juicy, too when enticing my high school students to be more descriptive in their writing. Its a fun word to say!

  4. As soon as I started to differentiate (in my mind and writing) the difference between editing and revising, I was able to start to teach my students the difference. Editing is something the computer can help us with (and likely will help them with for the duration of their lives!) but revision comes from the heart. I like the idea of adding juicy verbs and leaving the 5 cent verbs behind.


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