Got verbs? Action words in the classroom

The following post was written for the Better.At blog and originally posted on March 2, 2012.

As the US Department of Education moves to rebrand No Child Left Behind and increase the significance of high-stakes testing, there is a counter-movement growing in the teaching work-force to provide relevant educational experiences that encourage students to do more than just memorize and recite facts.

blooms-taxonomy from - created by Ash Bhoopathy of Better.At

National policy-level decisions are mobilizing teachers to speak up about what works (and what doesn’t work) in education:

  • active student engagement with content,
  • recognition of failure as a valid and essential component of learning,
  • teacher role as a facilitator & guide, not just a content-expert,
  • exposing the learning process as a fluid, sometime murky experience,
  • recognition that real-world experiences are often stickier than rote learning,
  • learning environments that reflect the complex and connected nature of our planet,
  • opportunities to practice soft-skills that aren’t necessarily quantifiable: compromise, active listening, synthesis, etc,
  • learning outcomes that aim for the higher order thinking skills identified in Bloom’s Taxonomy (see illustration).


Many schools are working to capture, re-create & scale these successes into a mission statement. Curriculum designers and Web 2.0 companies are using adjectives that reflect these best teaching practices in their marketing to teachers, families and students. As words such as “collaborative”, “creative” and “innovative” find their way into more and more written materials – from iPad apps to book lists – teachers should not lose sight of the day-to-day actions required on the path to these abstract descriptors.

2 thoughts on “Got verbs? Action words in the classroom

  1. The distinction between the adjective and the verb in terms of what we achieve is important. We do therefore we can achieve. We collaborate, create and innovate in order to be collaborative, creative and innovational. I agree the verbs can be taught as a necessary step towards the abstract concept. Well said, and in easy to understand language. 🙂
    Teacher, NSW, Australia

  2. Jac,

    Nice work. A very important distinction and, as Ross (above) noted, delivered in succinct and clear language.

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