Rockin’ through the Verbals!

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by Kristin M. Woolums, M. Ed.

When I was a middle school Language Arts teacher, I had to teach a topic about which I (although I’m ashamed to admit) was unfamiliar: verbals.

I can recall reciting the definitions of the three types of verbals to a class that was less than enthused, and I kept thinking, “I’m saying it, so they must be getting it, right?” Wrong! I instantly realized my homework: get creative with teaching verbals.

First thing’s first: What are verbals?

Yeah, I asked myself that, too. In a nutshell, a verbal is a verb that acts like another part of speech such as a noun, adjective, or adverb. There are three types: gerunds, participles, and infinitives:

  • A gerund is a form of a verb that functions as a noun and always ends in –ing.

Gerund Example: Learning can be hard work.

  • A participle is a form of a verb that functions as an adjective and ends in –ing, -en, or –ed.

Participle Example: My school promotes an exciting learning environment.

  • An infinitive is a form of a verb that functions as an adjective, adverb, or noun and includes to plus the base form of the verb.

Infinitive Example: I can’t wait to learn about verbals!

That concludes your grammar lesson for the day….

Sounds pretty dry, huh? So how do you make this grammar lesson more exciting?

Speak to students on their level! I realized that there are so many examples of verbals in music and movies, so I challenged them (and myself!) to seek songs, movie titles, band names, etc that contained a verbal. I first started with my examples, but then the students quickly caught on and added to the list (click here for our list, which I made into a printable activity sheet!). The next thing I knew, we had a pretty good list going, but the best part was… the students were EXCITED about learning!

I have to admit, some of the items on our list are a bit of a stretch. You might have to put them in a complete sentence to make the true gerund or participle technically work (the infinitive is much easier to identify). But there again, that’s how grammar can be… elusive and unclear at times! This too becomes a great teaching moment for the practicality of grammar.

So, I hope this helps you middle school English teachers in your quest to have those learners actually understand (and retain!) these tricky little things we call verbals! By the way, did you catch the verbal in the title of this article? : )

For some easy ways to review grammar skills, check out these activity books from The School Box!

Kristin M. Woolums, M. Ed., teaches fifth grade at a private school in Atlanta, where she was recently named the 2010-2011 Teacher of the Year! Congratulations, Kristin! She also works at The School Box at Southlake during the summer months. We love when she contributes her stellar teaching ideas to A Learning Experience.

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