A Dragon in the Book Nook

story by Carolyn R Galbraith , illustrated by Marjorie Crosby-Fairall

Learning intention:

I am learning to understand how ideas can be sharpened by careful choices of expressive verbs.

Success criteria:

  • I can identify expressive verbs in a text.
  • I can compose expressive verbs to describe a performance.
  • I can include expressive verbs in a short narrative.
  • I can identify expressive verbs in the work of my peers.
  • I can workshop with my peers to suggest more expressive verbs.


Walk across the classroom in a distinctive manner, either quickly or slowly. Instruct students to suggest verbs to describe the action you are performing. Most likely they will start with verbs such as walk. Inform students that they need to be more expressive, providing examples such as stride, strut, meander or stroll. Discuss the impact that using expressive verbs has on creating clear descriptions.

Before reading The Dragon in the Book Nook inform students that they will be searching for specific verbs in the story. Read the beginning of the story, found on pages 27 and 28. Students might prefer to listen to the audio file of the story. Note expressive verbs on the board for students to refer back to later. Inform students that they should ignore general verbs such as got and have, instead focusing only on identifying expressive verbs.  For each example, think of a more general verb that might have been used. Examples include:

  • munching (e.g. less expressive would be eating)
  • exclaimed (e.g. less expressive would be said)
  • duck (e.g. less expressive would be bend)
  • score (e.g. less expressive would be get)
  • building (e.g. less expressive would be making)
  • sawed (e.g. less expressive would be made)
  • hammered (e.g. less expressive would be made)
  • hung (e.g. less expressive would be put up)
  • set (e.g. less expressive would be put)

Instruct students to continue reading the story or listening to the audio version. Tell students to identify further examples of expressive verbs or verb phrases (ensuring students know that a verb phrase is two or more words that describe an action). Students can work with a partner or independently for this task. Discuss examples and add these to the list on the board. Sample responses include:

  • clutched
  • dug about
  • admired
  • noticed
  • swaying
  • whipping up
  • popped

Inform students that they will be experimenting with performing actions and identifying expressive verbs to describe the actions of their peers.

Separate the students into two groups, telling one of the groups they will be performing first while the other observe their performances and identifying expressive verbs to describe the performances. Place the group who are performing first in a circle around the room. Tell these students to think of a verb and an action to perform the verb. Refer students back to the list of verbs on the board if they need support with generating ideas.

Instruct the remaining students to rotate around the classroom, observing the performances then jotting down an expressive verb or verb phrase to describe each action. Students may record their responses in their workbook or on an individual whiteboard.

Once students have had time to observe all the performances instruct the groups to swap, so students have a turn in both roles, performing and observing. Again, allow time for the other students to observe the performances and to jot down expressive verbs to describe them. Share responses and discuss which verb groups are most expressive.

Inform students that they will be using these verb groups in their own story about finding a creature. Discuss places students might find a dragon, providing examples such as in their tray, in their school bag or in their lunchbox. Instruct students to consider the following questions when generating ideas for their short story and discuss sample ideas collaboratively:

  • Where is the dragon hiding? (e.g. in their lunchbox)
  • How might they react when they find the dragon? (e.g. shocked and scared)
  • Why is the dragon there? (e.g. to steal their lunch)
  • How might they get rid of the dragon? (e.g. they might coax it to the canteen so it can eat food scraps instead)

Instruct students to compose a brief short story describing their encounter with a dragon and how they got rid of it. Tell students to include expressive verbs. Students may find it easier to write their short story first and then go back and edit it to include expressive verbs.

Once complete, instruct students to swap stories with a peer. Students should underline expressive verbs in the work of their peer. Tell students to workshop their stories, providing suggestions on ways their partner might edit their work to include more expressive verbs.