Score big with verbs in sports

Ice_Hockey_sharks_ducksBefore I met my husband, Oliver, my knowledge of hockey was limited to what I learned from Disney’s Mighty Ducks movies. (You mean real hockey players don’t actually quack?) A confession: While dating, I actually brought a book to the first hockey game I attended with Oliver. And read it. It’s a testament to his love for me that he didn’t dump me right then and there. (He says it was close.)

This morning I stumbled across a story entitled “Hockey’s Doc Emrick and His 153 Verbs.” A story that combines my home-grown appreciation for hockey and my innate love of language? Quack!

As sports writer Frank Deford explains, Doc Emrick is a long-time announcer for hockey who is respected for his work by fans around the world. Deford writes, “he is that rare play-by-play man who is both an authority on the game and a connoisseur of the language. The eloquence he brings to such a bombastic activity is the sort of giant contradiction that even overwhelms irony.” (So many great words in Deford’s own writing.)

In 2013, someone wrote down 53 different words Emerick used to say “pass.” A different fan wrote down all the verbs Emerick used to announce the USA-Canada game in the 2014 winter Olympics – 153, to be exact.

The story got me thinking. Kids love sports. Teachers love great writing. Great writing loves a variety of verbs. Quack, quack, quack!

RECIPES FOR USING SPORTS TO EXPAND VERB USAGE IN WRITING

Most Likely Chefs: English teachers, Physical Education teachers, or Journalism teachers

Variety #1

  1. Play the NPR story for students and show them the lists of words.
  2. Watch 2-5 minutes of a sports video – could be the high school team, a college team, or a movie scene (G, PG, or Kosher, of course).
  3. Before hitting play, ask students to write down all of the verbs they think of while watching the action of the clip.
  4. At the conclusion of the clip, compile a class list on the document camera or whiteboard of all the verbs they wrote down.
  5. Watch the clip again, allowing students to raise their hand to pause the video and add their commentary.
  6. Possible assignment: Ask students to select their own 2-5 minute clip for narration. If the technology is available, students can create their own play-by-play audio with the selected video. The clip does not necessarily have to be sports-related, as long as it has action (i.e. a fashion runway show. NOT Victoria Secret’s.)
  7. Long-term goal: Students keep a running list of the action verbs to use in their own writing. The teacher actively reminds students to refer to their list and add to it.

Variety #2

  1. Play the NPR story for students and show them the lists of words.
  2. Bring in copies of articles from ESPN magazine or other sports-related texts. Let students choose which article they’d like to read.
  3. Before they begin reading, ask students to highlight any action verbs they find. Also, ask them to star or underline any parts they believe to be an example of good writing.
  4. After students are done (or the next day, if you give that step as homework), compile a class list of the verbs they found.
  5. Ask students to create a simple t-chart on their paper. One side should say “Verb” and the other should say “Effect.” Ask students to pick five of the verbs and, in the “Effect” column, explain how the verb choice affected the text. (Push them beyond anything banal like “the words creates an image.” Right. But why that image? How does it connect to or affect the meaning, tone, or purpose of the text?)
  6. Next, ask students to replace their five chosen verbs and replace them with others they select from the class list that would also make sense in their article. Add the new five words to their t-chart and explain how those new choices affect and/or change the meaning from the original words.
  7. Finally, if there’s time or as a follow-up activity, engage students in discussion by asking them to share a part they identified as great writing, and (this is the important part) ask them to explain why the writing should be considered great. Did others identify the same moment? Why? How can we use these techniques in our writing?
  8. Long-term goal: Students keep a running list of the class’s action verbs to use in their own writing. The teacher actively reminds students to refer to their list and add to it.

Great connoisseurs of language are out there in every field, on every field, and apparently on ice too. Happy New Year’s Eve, be safe, and enjoy!