Choosing the Best Verb: Active vs. Passive Voice

This mini-lesson explores verb choice in a variety of online resources, and then it encourages students to draw conclusions about verb use. They then explore the pieces they are writing, check for active and passive voice, and make necessary revisions. (from site) Students will explore Websites (all hyperlinks attached to this lesson plan) and note the verbs that are used. After collecting a dozen references to verbs in context, students identify whether the verbs are active or passive voice using a u201cVerb Observation Chartu201d (attached to the lesson). Reflection and practice are the key components in this lesson.

Standards & Objectives

Academic standards
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.1
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.2
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.4
Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grades 11-12 reading and content, choosing flexibly...
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.6
Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the...
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.1
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.2
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.4
Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grades 9-10 reading and content, choosing flexibly from...
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.5
Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.6
Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the...
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.6
Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text in which the rhetoric is particularly effective, analyzing how style and content...
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.4
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the...
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.5
Analyze how an author's choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text (e.g., the choice of where to begin or end a story, the...
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative...
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.2
Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective...
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.3
Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event...
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.5
Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most...
CLE 3001.1.1
Demonstrate control of Standard English through grammar usage and mechanics (punctuation, capitalization, and spelling).
CLE 3001.1.2
Employ a variety of strategies and resources to determine the definition, pronunciation, etymology, spelling, and usage of words and phrases.
CLE 3001.1.3
Understand and use a variety of sentence structures.
CLE 3001.8.5
Know and use appropriate literary terms to derive meaning from various literary genres.
CLE 3002.1.1
Demonstrate control of Standard English through grammar usage and mechanics (punctuation, capitalization, and spelling).
CLE 3002.1.2
Employ a variety of strategies and resources to determine the definition, pronunciation, etymology, spelling, and usage of words and phrases
CLE 3002.1.3
Understand and use a variety of sentence structures.
CLE 3002.8.5
Know and use appropriate literary terms to derive meaning from various literary genres.
CLE 3003.1.1
Demonstrate control of Standard English through grammar usage and mechanics (punctuation, capitalization, and spelling).
CLE 3003.1.2
Employ a variety of strategies and resources to determine the definition, pronunciation, etymology, spelling, and usage of words and phrases.
CLE 3003.3.1
Write in a variety of modes, with particular emphasis on persuasion, for different purposes and audiences.
CLE 3003.3.3
Organize ideas into an essay with a thesis statement in the introduction, well-constructed paragraphs, a conclusion, and transition sentences that connect...
CLE 3003.5.1
Use logic to make inferences and draw conclusions in a variety of complex oral and written contexts.
CLE 3003.6.2
Analyze the organizational structures of complex informational and technical texts.
CLE 3005.1.1
Demonstrate control of Standard English through grammar usage and mechanics (punctuation, capitalization, and spelling).
CLE 3005.1.2
Employ a variety of strategies and resources to determine the definition, pronunciation, etymology, spelling, and usage of words and phrases.
CLE 3005.3.1
Write in a variety of modes for different purposes and audiences.
CLE 3005.3.3
Organize ideas into an essay with a thesis statement in the introduction, well-constructed paragraphs, a conclusion, and transition sentences that connect...
CLE 3005.6.1
Comprehend and summarize the main ideas of complex informational texts and determine the essential elements that elaborate them.
GLE 0501.3.2
Write in various modes and genres, including narration, literary response, personal expression, description, and imaginative.
SPI 3001.1.1
Demonstrate an understanding of the eight parts of speech, including their troublesome aspects, such as how to form the past and past participle of irregular but...
SPI 3001.1.12
Use context clues and/or knowledge of roots, affixes, and cognates to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words.
SPI 3001.1.13
Select the appropriate word among frequently confused words (i.e., to/too/two, their/there/theyre, it/its, you/youre, whose/whos, which/that/who, accept/except,...
SPI 3001.1.15
Use a sample reference source to determine aspects of a given word (e.g., spelling, part of speech, definition, cognates, etymology, synonyms).
SPI 3001.8.13
Locate words or phrases in a passage that provide historical or cultural cues.
SPI 3002.1.1
Demonstrate an understanding of the eight parts of speech, including their troublesome aspects, such as how to form the past and past participle of irregular but...
SPI 3002.1.13
Select the appropriate word from among frequently confused words (i.e., to/too/two, their/there/theyre, it/its, you/youre, whose/whos, which/that/who,...
SPI 3002.1.14
Use context clues and/or knowledge of roots, affixes, and cognates to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words.
SPI 3002.1.16
Use a sample reference source to determine aspects of a given word (e.g., spelling, part of speech, definition, cognates, etymology, synonyms).
SPI 3002.1.9
Recognize a shift in either verb tense or point of view within a writing sample.
SPI 3002.8.12
Locate words or phrases in a passage that provide historical or cultural cues.
SPI 3003.1.1
Demonstrate the correct use of commas and lesser-used punctuation marks (e.g., hyphens, dashes, colons) in complex and sophisticated constructions.
SPI 3003.1.11
Correctly choose verb forms in terms of tense, voice (i.e., active and passive), and mood for continuity.
SPI 3003.1.5
Use previously learned techniques such as recognizing cognates, root words, affixes, foreign phrases, and textual context to identify unfamiliar words, including...
SPI 3003.1.8
Choose correctly or incorrectly spelled words.
SPI 3003.3.13
Identify the targeted audience for a selected passage.
SPI 3003.3.8
Choose the transitional device that appropriately connects sentences or paragraphs within a writing sample.
SPI 3003.3.9
Rearrange the order of supporting paragraphs within a writing sample given a specified organizational pattern (comparison-contrast, chronological).
SPI 3003.6.3
Analyze the ways in which the organizational structure of a complex informational or technical text supports or confounds its meaning or purpose.
TSS.ELA.11-12.L.CSE.1
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking; consider complex and contested matters of usage...
TSS.ELA.11-12.L.CSE.2
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing; when reading and writing, use...
TSS.ELA.11-12.L.VAU.4
Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on 11th -12th grade-level text by choosing flexibly from a...
TSS.ELA.11-12.L.VAU.6
Acquire and accurately use general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the...
TSS.ELA.11-12.RI.CS.5
Analyze and evaluate the effectiveness of the structure an author uses in his or her own exposition or argument, including whether the structure makes...
TSS.ELA.11-12.RI.CS.6
Determine an author's point of view and/or purpose in a text, analyzing how style and content contribute to its effectiveness.
TSS.ELA.11-12.RL.CS.5
Analyze how an author's choices concerning the structure of specific parts of a text contribute to its overall structure, meaning, and aesthetic impact.
TSS.ELA.11-12.RL.CS.6
Analyze how point of view and/or author purpose requires distinguishing what is directly stated in texts and what is implied.
TSS.ELA.11-12.W.PDW.5
Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most...
TSS.ELA.11-12.W.TTP.2
Write informative/explanatory texts to analyze, synthesize, and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the...
TSS.ELA.11-12.W.TTP.3
Write narrative fiction or literary nonfiction to convey experiences and/or events using effective techniques, well-chosen details, and well-structured...
TSS.ELA.9-10.L.CSE.1
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking; use effective parallel structure and various types...
TSS.ELA.9-10.L.CSE.2
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing; when reading and writing, explain the...
TSS.ELA.9-10.L.VAU.4
Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on 9th -10th grade-level text by choosing flexibly from a range...
TSS.ELA.9-10.L.VAU.5
Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings in grades 9-10 reading and content; interpret figures...
TSS.ELA.9-10.L.VAU.6
Acquire and accurately use general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the...
TSS.ELA.9-10.RI.CS.4
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative...
TSS.ELA.9-10.RL.CS.4
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of...
 
Alignment of this item to academic standards is based on recommendations from content creators, resource curators, and visitors to this website. It is the responsibility of each educator to verify that the materials are appropriate for your content area, aligned to current academic standards, and will be beneficial to your specific students.
 
Learning objectives: 

Students will:

  • identify verbs in a variety of contexts. 
  • analyze verbs to determine whether constructions rely on active or passive voice. 
  • draw conclusions about how to match active and passive voice to their writing situation. 
  • choose verbs (active or passive) appropriate for the audience and purpose of their writing.

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 
Applying
Extension suggestions: 
  • Invite students to search for examples of passive voice in environmental literature (texts they find in their community or see and read every day). You might encourage students to check billboards, newsletters, church bulletins, pamphlets, and brochures that they find in their daily activities. Some texts will rely almost exclusively on active voice, such as instructions for shipping overnight packages in a brochure at the post office. It's likely that students will find some examples of passive voice, however, if they are observant. Passive voice is frequently used in park brochures, for instance (e.g., the rock paintings were discovered by settlers in the 1850s; . . . They were probably created by Native Americans for religious ceremonies). Take advantage of the opportunity to explore why a writer has chosen active over passive voice, and vice versa.
  • Students can explore a collection of documents that show how style changes over time. Ask students to compare the use of active and passive voice in historical documents (primary and secondary). As they explore the reasons for the verb choice in documents, you can explore the ways that changing social and cultural attitudes can affect the way that a sentence is written (Are passive sentences more likely to be used to distance a group from responsibility for an action?).
  • Comparative document study can provide interesting insight on the use of active and passive voice. Numerous online collections can provide a group of documents on the same topic with differing perspectives, including Hot Paper Topics: School Vouchers and School Choice, from St. Ambrose University's O'Keefe Library, Investigative Reporters and Editors' In the News, and the African American Odyssey from the Library of Congress. Connect the exploration to genre study by considering how the genre combines with the audience and purpose to influence the choices in the document.

Helpful Hints

Materials:

  • Internet Access
  • Verb Observation Chart Printout
  • Interactive Verb Observation Chart Website
  • Active and Passive Voice Website
  • Passive and Active Voices Website
  • A Writer's Reference Website

References

Contributors: