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Teaching the power of precise verbs with procedures

I love teaching procedural texts. Not only do we get to focus on text structure and language features, but we get to play with common sense and detail! These two important factors can be considered in our writing when we choose precise verbs.

A classic engagement lesson for introducing procedures is showing your students how to make a jam sandwich. BUT getting your students to tell you what to do. This leads to hilarious moments such as a whole tub of butter being put on top of a slice of bread, and a great conversation about verbs.

One of the first things we can notice when co-constructing a procedure with our students is the overuse of the words PUT and GET. Quite simply, this can be from a lack of topic-specific vocabulary.

GET the bread, PUT the butter on, PUT the jam on, GET a knife, PUT the sandwich on a plate, etc.

Our procedures can end up being BORING and lacking in detail when we forget to use precise verbs.

Instead of GET, we can use gather, collect, find, buy, purchase, borrow, etc

Instead of PUT, we can use words like place, position, and lay.

Of course, in this instance, we have used PUT instead of more topic-specific verbs, such as SPREAD.

SPREAD the butter on the bread is much more specific than PUT the butter on the bread (although PUT can lead to the hilarity mentioned above).

It is through learning how easily our readers can become confused, and learning more about their topic and its vocabulary, that our students learn to become more precise and detailed in their writing.

It’s also why making precise verb choices should be one of the success criteria that you teach explicitly and include as a learning goal for students.

How can we encourage students to use precise verbs?

Here’s one of my favourite lessons for improving our verb choices and topic-specific vocabulary within a procedural text. BONUS – it also makes a great addition to your learning wall.

This activity works best when students have chosen their own topic for their pre-test, as you will get a range of verbs.

A lesson on finding precise verbs

You will need:

  • Student pre-test (a piece of procedural writing they completed before explicit teaching)
  • Paint colour swatches (the ones with 3-4 shades of the same colour) from your hardware store – you’ll need about 20!
  • Highlighters and black sharpies
  • Access to a dictionary (online or physical copy)

Lesson steps:

  1.  Students highlight the verbs in their texts
  2. As a whole class, collect a list of verbs used on a whiteboard
  3. Pair students up and assign them a verb to research (EG CUT)
  4. Cross out the verb on the whiteboard, so it is not used again.
  5. Students research precise verbs that are synonyms for their given word. For example CUT: slice, slit, chop, dice, trim
  6. Students write their given verb (eg CUT) on the top section of their card and their more precise verbs in the section underneath.
  7. Collect the color swatches and display them on your learning wall. If you wanted to, you could trim the top of the swatches and add craft sticks to make them look like ice creams –  students love this and some handy helpers could do this for you.
  8. Next lesson, practise writing a procedure and replacing boring verbs with precise verbs from your learning wall!

This is an effective and engaging activity that students love. You will find that they WILL return back to their words and they WILL improve their chosen verbs.

Other activities to improve verb choice and topic-specific vocabulary:

  • Watch a video of a cooking show and write down verbs you hear
  • Annotate a recipe, highlight verbs, and even research more specific verbs if needed

Use this freebie in your next procedural writing lesson!

Teachie Tings Procedural Writing Resources

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How to Convert PowerPoint to Google Slides


It’s easy to convert any PowerPoint presentation into Google Slides. To do this, you’ll need to make sure you have a free Google account.

As a teacher, this means you can create or purchase any PowerPoint slides and save them to your Google account easily – no need to purchase the ‘Google version’! Using Google slides is also a powerful way to share slides for home learning! Google Slides works great for most households because you can download Google Slides on a smartphone (no home computer required), and everyone can have a Google account for free! 

How to convert PowerPoint to Google Slides

  1. Open Google Drive.
  1. Select “New” in the upper left-hand corner of the screen.
  1. Select “Upload File.”
  1. Open the PowerPoint file.
  1. After uploading, right-click and select “Open with,” then select “Google Slides.”. 
  1. Select “File.”
  1. Select “Save as Google Slides.”

That’s it! You’re done. You can use this to upload Powerpoint presentations to Google Slides for easy storage or sharing. It’s also effective if you don’t have a home copy of PowerPoint to play with.

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 Bump It Up Walls in Mathematics

Bump It Up Walls in Mathematics

I am frequently asked how to create a Bump It Up Walls in Mathematics. 

Although maths walls may appear to be trickier, the premise is the same. The awesome thing is that the benefits to your students will also be the same! Visible learning and teaching really matters and has a huge impact on student learning.

Let’s get into the steps we need to take to get started with Bump It Up Walls in maths!

A worked example of an ‘A’.

How to create a Bump It Up Wall for Mathematics

A mathematics BIUW needs a Learning Intention and leveled samples (worked examples). As with any Bump It Up Wall, you should be guided by your marking rubric. This will tell you how many levels you will need on your wall (generally A, B, C, and sometimes D standard).

  • Create your A using the marking rubric. Your ‘A’ sample should be 100% correct, align with the A on your marking guide (not working beyond), and demonstrate the most efficient/preferred method.
  • List the Success Criteria (‘I can’ statements) needed to achieve the A. and display below the sample.
  • Once your ‘A’ is created, create your B and C levels, etc.

Again, be guided by your marking rubric. Some differentiating factors in mathematics can include accuracy of calculations, application of an effective strategy, and inclusion of all elements/steps.

  • Look at the verbs in your marking guide to include skills within your success criteria. For example, ‘I can decode the question’; ‘I can decide on a strategy’; ‘I can defend my strategy/answer.’ 
  • Once you have your samples and success criteria for each sample, you are ready to display your wall. In the early days of your unit, your student can perform a pre-test and then identify where they currently sit on the Bump It Up Wall. They will then see how they can boost their own achievement by referring to the wall.

To turn your Mathematics Bump It Up Wall into a learning wall:

  • Add your marking rubric
  • Add vocabulary and definitions (re-written in student language)
  • A list of skills we already know that can help us
  • Can I complete this using a mental method? Can I use a mental method plus some notes? Do I need to use a written method? Do I need a calculator?
  • Can I explain this method to someone else?
  • Include easy access to manipulatives and learning wall ‘take-aways’ such as number lines, hundred squares,  MAB blocks, and protractors – whatever your students may need.
  • Ensure displays are large enough to see from a few meters away and that they are at the students’ level. 
  • Use abstract and real-life examples to demonstrate their concept.

Tip: Integrate STAR strategy for word problems and problem-solving:

Want to connect with other teachers and use Bump It Up Walls effectively? Join our Facebook Group!

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Bump It Up Wall Research – where is it?

Bump it up walls are displays intended to ‘bump up’ your students’ level of achievement. They are growing in popularity due to the research of John Hattie, and Lyn Sharrat, and are popping up in classrooms and staff meetings around the world.

While they are growing in popularity, Bump It Up Wall research is still notoriously hard to find. If you do a quick search on Google, then you will be disappointed to find that there are very few research papers specifically researching the effect size of BIUW pedagogy.

However, we can make links to other research about the way learners learn and John Hattie is a great place to begin. John Hattie found that worked examples have a very high effect, and as Bump It Up Walls are created from worked examples, the link is very clear.

A ‘worked example’ or text sample used within the Bump It Up Wall framework. The text is annotated.

So what is a worked example and how do they relate to bump it up wall research?

A worked example provides explicit guidance indicating how to solve a particular problem,

consisting of the problem statement along with a possible solution (Hilbert & Renkl, 2009;

Renkl, Atkinson, & Große, 2004). 

They are more commonly used in maths and science (think about mathematics anchor charts and textbook examples) but they can also be used in literacy settings (annotated modeled response, leveled text, writing exemplar).

Worked examples reduce cognitive load (Paas et al., 2003). For example, showing a student a figure of a square, rather than trying to describe the square verbally, reduces the extraneous cognitive load for that student. This means students’ attention can be redirected toward information that is important for the development of schemas, such as vocabulary and real-world examples (e.g squares are 2D shapes that have four equal sides – like a waffle or a floor tile).

Worked examples also demonstrate excellence (think of WAGOLL or ‘What a good one looks like’). In a classroom setting, we can use partially worked examples and give students the task of completing the ‘problem’, for example ending a story. We can also give students pairs of worked examples to compare and contrast.

bump it up wall research
Leveled texts with annotations.

So what makes effective worked examples and how do we emulate this in a Bump It Up Wall?

Renkl (2005) suggests that students only gain deep understanding through worked examples when the examples: 

(1) are self-explanatory. 

(2) provide principle-based, minimalist, and example-relation instructional explanations as help.

(3) show relations between different representations. 

(4) highlight structural features that are relevant for selecting the correct solution procedure. 

(5) isolate meaningful building blocks. 

To translate this research to bump it up walls:

1. We can make our walls self-explanatory by including a Learning Intention (and explicitly deconstructing the learning Intention so that students understand the learning task).

  1. We can ensure that our examples are of high quality, our examples and walls are not cluttered, and that they only include success criteria that have been explicitly taught. They should also include annotations that help students to better understand the examples.
  1. We can link our examples through visual means such as color-coding, string, and organization of our wall. 
  1. We can ensure that the core domains of the worked examples are clear; for instance, when writing a text, features highlighted should include structure, language features, grammar and punctuation, story arc, etc). Information relevant to other text types should not be on the wall confusing students.
  1. We can use the most meaningful building blocks: success criteria. For early primary (K-3) between 5-7 success criteria should be agreed on (co-constructed is preferred). In middle to upper primary and above, 7+ success criteria can be used. We can isolate success criteria by planning to teach each success criteria explicitly, provide clear visual aides detailing each success criteria, and provide a student checklist that clearly states every success criteria.

In addition to providing worked examples on your BIUW, provide students with multiple examples. ​​ Spiro, Feltovich, Jacobson, & Coulson (1991) affirmed that providing a wide range of examples (and having students create their own examples) helps foster broad knowledge transfer and “cognitive flexibility”.

While research relating to Bump It Up Walls is limited, we can learn much from existing research and its application in the paradigm of Bump It Up Walls (and their close cousin, Learning Walls).

Ready to get started with Bump It Up Walls? Try our done-for-you Bump It Up Wall resources.

Get the most out of Bump It Up Walls and Learning Walls with our Teachie Tings Facebook group

It’s our friendly community where we share ideas, discuss pedagogy and boost the success of our students thorough Bump It Up Wall and Learning Wall pedagogy. Join here!


Hattie, J. (2008). Visible learning. Routledge.

Hilbert, T. & Schworm, Silke & Renkl, Alexander. (2004). Learning from worked-out examples: The transition from instructional explanations to self-explanation prompts. 

Paas et al. (2003) Cognitive load theory and instructional design: Recent developments

2003, Educational Psychologist

Renkl, A. (2005). The Worked-Out Examples Principle in Multimedia Learning. In R. E. Mayer (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning (pp. 229–245). Cambridge University Press. 

Renkl, A., Atkinson, R.K. & Große, C.S. How Fading Worked Solution Steps Works – A Cognitive Load Perspective. Instructional Science 32, 59–82 (2004).

Spiro, R. J., Feltovich, P. J., Jacobson, M. J., & Coulson, R. L. (1991). Knowledge Representation, Content Specification, and the Development of Skill in Situation-Specific Knowledge Assembly: Some Constructivist Issues as They Relate to Cognitive Flexibility Theory and Hypertext. Educational Technology, 31(9), 22–25.