Previous fiction writing by the students, pencils, assembled “spicy verbs rack” (spice rack, empty spice jars, “boring” verbs labels, “spicy” verbs strips); In the Small, Small Pond (any book featuring vivid verbs would work); fifteen books that repeatedly use words from the “boring” verbs list


By the end of this lesson the students will be able to:

1.identify several over-used verbs: answer, ask, cry, eat, laugh, run, and walk.
2.identify several synonyms of these verbs
3.substitute a more colorful synonym for these over-used verbs.

PSM: The students will write new words.
The students will successfully handle the spice rack.

COG: The students will demonstrate the ability to substitute colorful verbs for over-used verbs.

AFF: The students will work together during guided practice.
The students will listen to each other’s sentences and offer constructive criticism.


Steps for creating the “spicy verbs rack:” Put the “boring” verbs labels on the outside of empty spice jars.Put the “spicy” verbs strips inside the spice jar corresponding with the strips.Arrange the spice jars on the rack so that the labels are visible.


Beginning writers tend to stick to familiar, easy verbs.As a result, these verbs (such as eat, talk, walk, run) become monotonous in their writing.I would like to encourage my students to use synonyms for these verbs to provide variety in their writing.


“I was looking through your short stories and noticed the same couple words coming up repeatedly.All of you used the same verbs over and over again. I’m going to call those the “boring” verbs.Although these verbs work, they get a little “boring” after reading them repeatedly.I am going to teach you how to “spice” up your writing by substituting more colorful, “spicy” verbs for these over-used, “boring” verbs.”

Demonstration/Modeling (Read-Aloud):

We will read a book In the Small, Small Pond that features colorful, vibrant, spicy verbs.We can stop on several pages and say, “look at all of the spicy verbs.”

After reading In the Small, Small Pond, we will explain the spice rack to students.We have spice jars labeled with “boring” verbs; inside are more colorful alternatives that you can use.Whenever you want to use one of the seven “boring” verbs, grab aspice jar and pull out another word that may work better.

Shared Demonstration:

We will get a book that repeatedly uses the same verbs.We will have the students work together as a class to add “spicy” verbs.We will do this for roughly three to four pages.The students can literally come to the spice rack, find the over-used verb, and pull another word out of the jar to substitute.


1. Can you identify an over-used verb on this page?

Guided Practice:We will have ten books that repeatedly use common verbs such as eat, cry, laugh, walk, and run.The students will work in pairs to substitute “spicy” verbs for the over-used verbs.We will walk around listening to the students during this time and guiding them when necessary.


1.Find a partner.
2.Have one person from each group choose a book from the table.
3.Take turns reading one page aloud.
4.After reading the page, the person who read should identify one over-used verb on that page.
5.The same person should then say several “spicy verbs.”
6.When that person is done, the other person gets a turn.
7.Repeat until time is up.


1.Did your partner identify an over-used verb on this page?
2.What verbs did you substitute?
3.How many substitute words did you come up with?

Independent Practice:

We will have students get a piece of writing they are already working on and have them located over-used verbs and substitute more colorful alternatives.


1.Get a piece of fiction from your writing folder.
2.Locate at least three of the “boring” verbs in your writing.
3.Replace them with one of the “spicier” verbs from the spice rack or with another verb of your choice.

1.Which “boring” verbs did you locate?
2.Which “spicy” verbs did you substitute?
3.Which sentence do you like better?


The students will share one sentence from their writing that they altered to include a “spicy” verb.This will provide one form of evidence that they have learned the concept.I will also monitor their future writing assignments, watching for the use of more colorful verbs.

This lesson is underlied by the theory of cooperative learning.Cramer states that “Cooperative learning can be an important part of writing” (Cramer, 2000, pg.124).By having the children work in groups, they will be participating in peer revision.Students can benefit in three ways from peer revision: it improves writing, it helps students develop standards for judging the quality of their own writing, and it broadens the audience for writing.(Cramer, 124) When Cramer discusses the many terms of revision, he speaks of the key terms that help aid in better writing.Student have the opportunity to learn to revise, edit, proofread, rewrite, and reformulate their papers.By having the children do this mini lesson in groups, they will be able to see the multiple ways in which verbs can be used and also become aware of the different kinds of verbs.(Cramer, pg. 104)


Boring Verbs:answer, ask, run, walk, eat, cry, laugh

Spicy Verbs:

Answer: reply, retort, agree, disagree, respond

Ask: question, request, nag, pester, beg, plead, interrogate, demand

Run: sprint, jog, lope, scuttle, scamper, dart, dash, scurry, rush, hurry

Walk: saunter, stroll, amble, march, stride, toddle, totter, stagger, strut, move,

Eat: gobble, scoff, wolf, munch, chomp, consume, devour, gorge, swallow,

Cry: sob, weep, blubber, snivel, whimper, bawl, howl, wail, shed tears

Laugh: chuckle, snicker, hoot, giggle, snort, cackle, chortle, guffaw,