I've always felt that one of my best tricks of the trade is to take away a boring verb and replace it with a strong action verb. For example, no one wants to read that, "The dog was sleepy." However, if you take away "was" and turn sleepy into the adjective before the noun, there is no limit to what you can write.
Writers can be typical:
The sleepy dog curled into itself under the desk.
Or include more action:
The sleepy dog defied slumber by lurching at the unsuspecting human trying to pet it.
Maybe even add some creativity:
The sleepy dog stretched its paws and signaled the spacecraft to retrieve it from earth.
No matter what you decide to do with the sleepy dog, removing the be verb frees you up to create a story behind the image.
Therefore, my first trick along the writer's journey is to find ways to eliminate those boring be verbs and replace them with action verbs. I've even held mock funerals in my class, where we take index cards and bury the words in the school yard.
We give a teary goodbye to our friends who were always there for us in our writing slumps. Does anyone, *sniff* want to say some parting words to *sniff* our friends? Make sure you remember to bring the box of tissues outside with you for this is a truly sad moment.
Students take turns saying a few words, digging small holes with a shovel, and burying the following friends:
After the funeral, we go inside to answer a prompt without using our friends. Sure. There is a time to use these words, but students must learn how not to use them before they can add a few be verbs back into their writing.
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