Grammar/writing: action vs. linking.

Assignment: Write two short descriptions of the same thing. One description should use only action verbs. The other should use only linking verbs.

I am Luna Lovegood. I am good at beliveing. I am brave, and I was with Harry at the fight at the ministry. But I am usually quiet.

They call me “Loony.” (Even though I would like them to just call me Luna.) I once went to the ministry and fought some Death eaters. And I helped Harry smash prophecies.

This is from Sentence Island, the writing component to Michael Clay Thompson’s language arts program. As in the last writing activity I posted about, there’s a lot going on in this assignment. It is not, as I first assumed, just an exercise in making sure the student understands the difference between action verbs and linking verbs. Instead, as Alex verbally brainstormed and categorized two lists of descriptors about her subject and I took notes, the exercise turned into a thoughtful exploration of what these two kinds of verbs are for. What kind of things do action verbs let you talk about? What is the effect when you pile up linking-verb sentence after linking-verb sentence? What things are hard to say using each type of verb?

She selected just a few things from each list to put into her final descriptions. She really tried to make them parallel – an interesting challenge that I wouldn’t have required. I like the solution she found for introducing her subject without saying “I am…” or “my name is…” in the action-verb description.

When she was done, we read them over together. “This one is better,” Alex said without hesitation, jabbing a finger at the action-verb description. “It just sounds better. It’s more interesting.” She’s right, even if I do now want an icon with a picture of Luna Lovegood and the words “I am good at believing.” This assignment was such a powerful way of introducing the writing precept “show, don’t tell” – without ever telling that, incidentally, but just showing it. I’m starting to see that a grammar-based approach to good writing is much less petty and dry than it sounds. Michael Clay Thompson believes that grammar is profound, and that it extends far beyond the pursuit of “correctness.” He’s starting to convince me.

(Also, memo to myself: don’t skip the writing activities just because you figure that Alex already has a firm grip on the concepts.)

This entry was posted in language arts, Michael Clay Thompson, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Grammar/writing: action vs. linking.

  1. Wow! What a great lesson! I’ll have to look into Sentence Island for next year, I think.

  2. Julie says:

    Love it! I can’t wait to use this with my daughter! (and eventually my son – but I know my daughter especially will love it).

  3. Jenett says:

    Ask and receive! option 1 and option 2

  4. Kim says:

    [LOL, my captcha was "you rock": so true!! You do rock!]

    I’m loving MCT too. And more importantly, >L< loves it. The only part he dislikes is the practice island book. I can live with that. I often skipped the writing activities, but I'm finding you're right, I REALLY NEED to do them. He needs that practice. He thinks any verb that uses "is" is a linking verb, so all his LVP sentences are: the boy is jumping off the rock, the light saber is zooming. Conversely then I'll ask for an AVP sentence and I get: I'm a boy [but it doesn't have is!]. LOL

  5. tinderbox says:

    Kim, I can’t imagine doing all of the writing activities – there are a lot, and some of them seem pretty off-the-wall. But the ones we’ve done so far have had more payoff than I initially expected. They seem well constructed to provoke discoveries.

    Alex is more into Practice Island than I expected. She does one sentence, three times a week, and she likes to do it on her own. She comes up with some big misconceptions (the one we’re struggling with now is the temptation to declare that every noun is a subject), so I am valuing all the consistent grammar practice. But it is a lot of work.

    Are you guys doing the poetry book yet? I am curious about how Liam reacts/will react to that one!

  6. Jenett says:

    I left a comment with links to icons: I suspect your spam filtering may have eaten them.

    (If you can’t retrieve, please email or PM on LJ or whatever works for you: jenettsilver at gmail works nicely if needed.)

  7. tinderbox says:

    Jenett, I love those! Thank you!

  8. Pingback: Writing Exercise: Action vs. Linking | Novel Novice

  9. Jess Stork says:

    This was a real eye opener. I think I’m going to look at my WIP and see how it pans out with action verbs vs. linking verbs. Thanks for the tip!

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