Teaching adverbs in context

Encourage students to identify and discuss the use of the adverbs, adverbial phrases and adverbial clauses that authors use to create

  • a character in a narrative, by providing more information about his/her actions
  • a setting in a narrative
  • a mood in a narrative

Encourage students to use adverbs, adverbial phrases and adverbial clauses

  • in narratives – to provide extra information about someone’s behaviour, to create a mood or setting and to engage the reader
  • in explanations – to provide extra detail to facilitate understanding
  • in recounts – to create a mood, to provide extra detail and to engage the reader
  • in reports – to provide extra detail
  • in all their writing – to create complex and interesting sentences.

A warning about the use of adverbs

Adverbs are a part of speech that some writers try to avoid, or at least use sparingly. Select this link to read quotes from famous writers who advise against their use.


 Some ideas for teaching adverbs

  • While it is important for students to recognize adverbs of manner (they mostly end in ‘-ly’), they could be encouraged to write more precisely and effectively by selecting a strong verb instead of simply adding the adverb of manner to a weak verb.For instance, instead of saying ‘She walked slowly towards the door’, the student writer could choose a verb that more precisely captures how the character walks to the door and that reveals something about the character’s attitude or how she is feeling: ‘she sauntered towards the door’; ‘she crept towards the door’; ‘she slunk towards the door’; ‘she crawled towards the door’; ‘she dawdled towards the door’; ‘she strolled towards the door’ or ‘she shuffled towards the door’.  (Share these examples with the students and get them a. to roleplay the actions and b. to decide what each verb might tell us about the person who moves in that way. For example, if someone dawdles towards the door perhaps this shows some reluctance, whereas if she saunters towards the door she indicates she’s not in a hurry, but is probably quite confident about entering or leaving.)Ask students to review their own writing or the writing of a peer to find opportunities to identify where they have used a weak verb plus an adverb and then to replace these with stronger verbs.
  • Analyse and annotate a text (for example on the interactive whiteboard) to identify where the author has used adverbial clauses as part of complex sentences.
  • Model how to add adverbial clauses to sentences in order to create complex sentences. Start with a series of simple sentences and show students how the addition of the adverbial clauses improves the writing.
  • Use students’ own writing to identify where they have used adverbs, adverbial phrases and adverbial clauses. Identify opportunities for them to add adverbial phrases and clauses to add interest and depth to their writing. Have students work in pairs to review each others’ writing in the same way.
  • Do a Youtube search for grammar songs about adverbs (there are quite a few ) and have students work in pairs or groups to create their own song about adverbs. This is a creative way for students to demonstrate their understanding.
  • Play an adverb game. Create a set of action verb cards (or better still, involve students in the creation of the cards) and a set of adverb cards. Students take turns to select a verb card and an adverb card and to act out the combination. For instance, they might select a verb card that says ‘’open’ and an adverb card that says ‘carefully’. Their task is to act this out for the others to guess. This game serves to reinforce an understanding of how adverbs can add meaning to verbs.





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