Suggestions for Teaching the Past Tense and Its Irregular Verbs

We have found that the mention of the simple past tense scares students. The classroom loses its relaxed atmosphere with stressed and anxious students. It seems that in many cultures there is a belief that the simple past tense is very difficult. This article will offer some suggestions that may help to overcome this fear.

 

 

Let’s start with writing, then saying the past tense of the regular verbs in sentences. Presenting the easiest form will help the students to relax.

Add “ed” to the root form of the verb. (insert “classroom”)

Examples:

play = played enjoy = enjoyed

I played basketball yesterday.             I enjoyed the game.

 

NOTE: Explain that when the verb ends in “e” then you drop the final “e” and add “ed”, as in “lived” and “phoned”. Have them pronounce these words and use them in sentences.

live = lived phone = phoned

I lived in Canada last year.                 I phoned my friend last night.

 

Next explain that although the “ed” has three different sounds they will learn the pronunciation as they practice speaking.

Examples:

I watched TV yesterday.        I walked to class last week.             I liked my friend’s video.

 

I needed a new coat last winter.                              I wanted to find my friend this morning.

 

Ask the students these questions and have them answer, “yes”.

Examples:

Did you play basketball yesterday? (yes)             Yes, I played basketball yesterday.

Did you like your friend’s video? (yes)                Yes, I liked my friend’s video.

Did you need a new coat last winter? (yes)          Yes, I needed a new coat last year.

Did you phone your friend last night? (yes)         Yes, I phoned my friend last year.

Did you watch TV yesterday? (yes)                     Yes, I watched TV yesterday.

 

What if the answer is “No”?

Many questions use “to do” in the past tense. It’s not regular.

The past form of “to do” is “did

To form the negative we say: “did not” or “didn’t

 

Ask these questions again and have the students answer “no”.

Did you play basketball yesterday? (no)                 No, I didn’t (did not) play basketball yesterday.

Did you like your friend’s video? (no)                    No, I didn’t (did not) like my friend’s video.

Did you need a new coat last winter? (no)              No, I didn’t need a new coat last winter.

Did you phone your friend last night? (no)             No, I didn’t phone my friend last night.

Did you watch TV yesterday? (no)                         No I didn’t watch TV yesterday.

 

We suggest that you provide more practice by asking more oral questions. (Brian-insert “oral –questions” here.

How can everyone have fun learning the past tense form of the irregular verbs?

Let’s play Word Bingo. Everyone loves it!

Brian – insert “student-page” and “teachers’-instructions” here.

They can print these pages.

 

Written by:
Modified: September 8th, 2017
Published: May 10th, 2011

Comments (4)

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  1. Tam says:

    From my experience, knowing the right tense to use in different conditions are just hard for some students, especially those trying to learn English as a second language. Nice tips.

  2. Tam says:

    Few people can learn effectively in a stiff or sterile environment. Bring in the laughs. Nice points.

  3. Kevin says:

    English language has a number of rules and exceptions when those rules do not apply. These can be confusing.

  4. Xtra says:

    I teach older students and they usually do have a problem with past tense.

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