Merrily We Roll Along

Adverb lessons can be enlightening, and interesting.

By Jo Ann Zimmerman



Today's topic is adverbs. Adverbs really give people fits. They seem to be very difficult to teach, too. Many teachers would quite gladly skip over them altogether.

To begin with, whoever started the ugly rumor that adverbs end in -ly is at the top of my wet noodle list. This "rule" crosses people up both ways; not only do many adverbs not end in -ly, many words that end in -ly are not adverbs. If you drive fast, you won't get home late. And a person can be gangly, portly, friendly, or lovely, all adjectives.

Things go from bad to worse when we try to show how adverbs are different from adjectives. Students grasp at the dictum that "adjectives modify nouns and adverbs modify verbs," then zone out on the rest. In reality, adverbs are much more versatile than adjectives. In addition to verbs, adverbs can modify adjectives and other adverbs.

In the sentence "Adverbs really give people fits," really modifies the verb give. But "They seem to be very difficult to teach" has the adverb very modifying an adjective, difficult. And in "Many teachers would quite gladly skip over them altogether," quite modifies the adverb gladly.

I have found that students understand adverbs much better with the "what question does it answer" approach. Remember that adjectives answer the questions what kind, which one, and how many. Adverbs tell us where, when, how, why, to what extent, and under what conditions something happens.

o How do we roll along? Merrily!

o When will we have Paris? Always

o Round, round, I get around. I get where? Around

 Adverbs are also trickier than adjectives because they can show up pretty much anywhere in a sentence. Consider the following:

I can see clearly now.

Now I can see clearly.

I can now see clearly.

Clearly, I can see now.

Now I can clearly see.

Now, clearly, I can see.

Sometimes sprinkling adverbs carelessly results in a different meaning than the writer intended. A particularly gross offender is the adverb only, which tends to rub off on the word it's closest to. If you want to say that parking is for customers only, put it next to customers, not parking, where it suggests that customers may park only. This presumably would preclude their shopping.

You can get out of the adverbial soup with these great lessons to help your students understand adverbs well.

Adverb Lesson Plans:

Appetizing Adverbs

Here is an elementary level lesson plan that will have kids eating their words. It's a fun  and engaging way to introduce the role of adverbs while students make their own tasty sentences.

Introduction to Adverbs

This is a basic lesson for grades 4-8 that helps students develop a working definition of adverbs and use them in their own sentences. Just be sure to emphasize that adverbs can modify more than just verbs!

Asking for a Job Promotion

This clever lesson plan was written for ESOL adults but could be lots of fun with a high school class. And what teenager couldn't benefit from learning the value of such sentences as "I am always on time" and "I seldom get sick"?

Verb-Adverb Charades

Another one for lower grades, this activity gets ‘em up and out of their seats. The lesson can be used for either small group or whole class instruction.