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Improve Storytelling with Vocal Verbs and Adverbs


Aim: Helping students to use a wider range of vocabulary when relating stories

Activity: Rewriting exchanges

Level: Intermediate to advanced


  • Think of an exchange you've recently had with a friend and relate the exchange to the class. The first time you relate the exchange, only use 'he / she said', maybe adding a 'he / she replied' to add some variation. The second time you relate the exchange use a selection of vocal verbs and adverbs (see list below) to spice things up.
  • As a class, ask students to relate the differences between the two presentations. Be sure to not only ask for vocabulary, but also impressions such as 'The story was more interesting because you used different verbs.', or 'It seemed the mood of the speakers changed.', etc.
  • Hand out the exercise / vocal verbs / adverbs list. In order to check understanding, model some sentences using the various verbs / adverbs modulating your voice to help with understanding.
  • Ask students to choose three verbs / adverbs and write a sentence. Go around the room, or in small groups and have students practice their sentences modulating their voices to emphasize understanding.
  • In small groups, ask students to take "A Heated Discussion" and underline the instances of 'he / she said' that they can change.
  • Have students use the vocal verbs/adverbs list to update "A Heated Discussion" into a more interesting story.

A Heated Discussion

Rewrite the following exchange using the vocal verbs / adverbs sheet to 'spice up' this heated exchange. Here is an example:

Peter said he was angry and that he wanted to leave.
Peter menacingly stated that he was angry. He then sullenly muttered that he wanted to leave.

Tom said to Peter that he loved Jane, Peter's girlfriend. Peter said that Tom was a traitor. He also said that he didn't want to be friends with Peter anymore. Tom then said that he understood Peter, and that he was sorry. He said he wanted to make things better with Peter. In fact, he said he was willing to never see Jane again. Peter then said he didn't believe Tom. He said that Tom was a liar, and that he was only friends to get to Jane. Tom said that it wasn't true, and said that he hadn't wanted to fall in love with Jane. He said he understood Peter's anger, but that he wanted him to try to forgive him. Peter said that he felt that wasn't possible, but that he would try. Tom said he would wait, and that he only wanted to be friends. Peter said that Tom should leave him alone.

Vocal Verbs / Adverbs

Vocal Verbs

admit advise agree announce answer ask assert begin bellow blurt call caution claim comment complain concede confess cry demand exclaim explain gasp groan insist interrupt joke lie mention moan mumble mutter note object observe order quip report respond scream shout snap sob state swear taunt tease vow warn whine whisper yell

Vocal Adverbs

adamantly admiringly adoringly angrily anxiously bashfully casually cautiously cheerfully clearly cowardly curiously cynically decisively defensively defiantly dramatically energetically flatly formally gleefully gloomily happily harshly hysterically jealously joyfully joylessly loudly lovingly meekly mysteriously nervously offensively proudly questioningly quickly rapidly sadly sarcastically seriously shyly sleepily softly stubbornly teasingly tenderly thoughtfully unexpectedly wisely
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