Typically when we ask a story, we generally focus on three different verbs and that works great!

But every once in a while there might be a need to really laser in on only one verb. This verb might be particularly difficult, particularly important, or one that students often mess up.

Or, when trying to focus on three verbs, we don't really hit any of them really well.

For those reasons, one-verb stories might just be the answer.

One-verb stories are stories developed using only one main verb.


By targeting just one main verb, students are able to focus and acquire that verb more easily.

This doesn't mean that we can ONLY use one verb in our stories, it just means that we are hitting one particular verb hard and most of the questions we ask will revolve around this particular verb.

Naturally, when we focus on less, our students generally acquire more with little effort on our part. They will still be hearing all the nouns, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, and other verbs that make up the story.

Write on Board

Start by writing the verb on the board in first, second, and third persons with translation.

It's best to write them on the board in the order that you'll be using them and NOT in typical verb-chart order. We don't want students to memorize these verbs, let alone memorize them in a chart.

The only reason we're writing them on the board is for students to have a visualization of how they work. The brain stores each form separately and not in a chart and only links these forms together after much exposure. Teaching a chart only slows down the way the brain works.

When you do write down the verbs, it's a good idea to use two different colors: one color for the verb and another for its translation.

This helps your visual learners as well as those students with special needs know where to look when they need the verb or the translation.

Also, when writing the verbs on the board, this is not the time for a grammar lesson. Don't explain the verbs or how they work or their tense or if they're regular or irregular. Let the words and the translations speak for themselves. Let students make their own connections and form their own map of how the language works.

As they get exposed to more and more language, they'll redefine their map to make sense based on their updated proficiency.

Ask Questions

Once you have your verbs written on the board, you'll then use questions to develop the story.

Remember that you want to put the work on the students to create the story and your job is only to facilitate that by asking leading questions to develop a character and a plot around your focus verb.

  • Who does the verb?
  • When do they do the verb?
  • Where do they do the verb?
  • What do they do?
  • How do they do the verb?
  • Why do they do the verb?

You get the idea. The key is to ask a ton of questions and to review frequently.

Whenever you ask questions, whether they are to develop the story or to review the story, you need to be sure to include individual students, the class as a whole, and yourself in the questions. This is to be sure that you're working the verbs to their maximum potential in all the forms in a natural context.

  • Do you do the verb?
  • Do they do the verb?
  • When do I do the verb?

Again, you get the idea.

Whenever you use a verb form that is not written on the board, be sure to add it along with its translation.

Also, even when I'm asking the whole class questions, I also like to ask a few individual students to get more ideas or to engage some of the quieter students.

Write & Discuss

The next day, I like to do a write & discuss with my students about yesterday's story.

You'll ask questions to review the story and write the story on the board as students copy it down in their notebooks.

As always, ask questions to the whole class as well as individual students. This way you get a full gauge of the level of comprehension of your class as a whole and as individual students.

You'll want to include dialogue to practice the different verb forms. The more dialogue you can include in your stories, the more practice with verbs students get. This is how they acquire the verbs, not by memorizing a chart.

Additional Activities

Once you've done your one-verb story and you've done a write & discuss with your story, there are a few activities that you can have your students do as extension activities.

You can have your students read and translate the write & discuss story to their family or tell an entirely new story based on the one focus verb.

For their weekly quick write, you can have them write a story focusing only on this one verb and give a prize to the student who can use this verb the most in their story in a natural way.

Another great activity is to have students retell the story or create a new story based on the focus verb on Flipgrid. This is a great way to gauge students' overall speaking proficiency.

As you can see, one-verb stories can be quite powerful as well as versatile tools in your CI toolbox.

Have you tried a one-verb story? Let us know how it went in the comments.

Also, be sure to download our One-Verb Guide by clicking the button below!