The Cowardly Viking

story by Katie Furze , illustrated by Peter Sheehan

Learning intention:

I am learning to explain reasons behind an author’s verb choices and adverb groups/phrases so that I can develop my own writing.


Success criteria:

  • I can identify where verb choice makes an action more vivid
  • I can identify where adverb groups/phrases give more information
  • I can create my own sentences using strong verbs and adverb groups/phrases


After reading the story as a class, ensure students don’t have access to the text while they do the following activity.


Write on the board:

Earnest closed his eyes.


Explain that a sentence similar to this occurs when Earnest is about to get in the rowboat. Ask students:

- how Earnest was feeling at that point (overwhelmed, scared)

- to identify the verb (closed)

- to discuss ways to improve the verb to show how he’s feeling (squeezed his eyes shut, scrunched his eyes tightly shut, screwed up his eyes)


Write the full sentence on the board from page 28:

Earnest squeezed his eyes tightly shut for a moment.


Ask students what else was included in the sentence besides the action of him closing his eyes. When students have identified ‘for a moment’, explain that this adverb phrase gives more information about the story – Earnest is not standing there with his eyes shut for ages; it is a brief pause while he gathers his strength. Explain that this gives the reader a deeper understanding of Earnest’s character.


Students complete the worksheet Make Sentences Interesting. These sentences come from the text, although students can create their own when expanding.


Once they’ve finished, students are to write their own short story with strong verbs and adverb groups/phrases. They can write about any topic, but they must include at least one of the following sentences with a stronger verb and an adverb phrase:


  1. S/He went across the road. (verb – went)


  1. The (animal) looked at them. (verb – looked)


  1. “I’m not staying here,” s/he said. (verb – said)