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Teaching Irregular Verbs and Tricky Grammar

How to Teach Tricky Verb Tenses and Grammar, Part 2

In the first 2 parts of this series, you learned how native speakers learn differently than language students and how to break down tricky verb tenses into manageable chunks by teaching only specific verb forms at a time.  This third part in the series talks about ideas for teaching irregular verb forms.

I previously mentioned that when learning irregular verb forms you need to practice, practice, practice. 

And by practice, practice, practice, I don’t mean conjugate verbs over and over.  Native speakers don’t do this and conjugating verbs doesn’t create fluent speakers, it creates speakers who conjugate verbs in their heads when they’re trying to communicate.

Teach irregular verbs in context with lots of repetition.

Introduce an irregular verb and create a small activity to use it in context, but within a structured environment so that students are guaranteed to use it correctly.  The idea is that you want them to hear it being used correctly many times.

Here are a few examples from my Spanish Preterite Imperfect Unit.

For those of you who don’t speak Spanish, students are playing the classic picnic activity to review the irregular verb “traer”.  What did you bring to the picnic?  Paco brought apples, Laura brought hamburgers, and I brought sandwiches.  Jen, what did you bring to the picnic? The next person repeats that list and adds another item.   This type of repetition helps students to learn this irregular verb so it becomes second nature.

Spanish Preterite Imperfect Lesson Plans

In this second example, students are practicing stem changing verbs.  They have to fill in the sentence which says, “Paco ordered _______ in the restaurant, but the waiter served him _________ and laughed.”  Students then share their sentences out loud and the class votes for the funniest sentence.  So they’re hearing the repetition of how these tricky verbs sound, but in the context of a funny, engaging sentence.

Preterite vs. Imperfect Lesson Plans

Again, (if you read Part 1 of this series), you’ll notice that we’re not focusing on using all forms of the verb conjugations.  We’re using just a few at a time.

Maybe now you’re thinking, “Sure, Sherry, these ideas sound great, but I don’t have lesson plans that go with your new teaching strategies and I don’t have time to create all this.”

No worries – I’ve got you covered.  Check out my new preterite, imperfect bundle (over 400 pages), everything you need to teach the preterite and imperfect tenses from start to finish:

  • 145 slide PPT explaining formation, usage, and how to differentiate between the two tenses
  • Games, songs, videos, speaking activities, writing activities, Internet practice
  • Quizzes, tests, regular verb flashcards, trifold flashcards, homework assignments.

Find other French and Spanish resources here for teaching grammar, vocab, culture, and more.

Stay tuned for future posts in this series on how to teach tricky verbs and grammar.



Happy Teaching!

~Sherry

World Language Cafe, engaging French and Spanish lesson plans for your class

Teaching Tricky Verbs and Grammar, Part 1

How to Teach Tricky Verb Tenses and Grammar, Part I

Don’t you just love teaching tricky verb tenses? 

Nope, not really!  In particular, the past tenses and the subjunctive can be so troublesome to teach.  But why are they so hard to teach?  Well, for the first thing, many of us aren’t teaching our students the way that native speakers learn.  If you’re interested, read the beginning of this series, “How Native Speakers Learn Differently Than Language Students” here.

To sum it up, it’s very difficult to replicate the repetition that you get as a native speaker with your parents speaking to you 24 hours a day.   As teachers, we often only have between 1 and 5 hours a week with our students.

There just isn’t enough time! 

For this reason, I’m taken some of the ways that native speakers learn and created a hybrid system so that even though we don’t have as much time with our students, we can still teach them effectively in native-like situations.  Here are a few solutions to get your students speaking more fluently instead of conjugating verbs in their heads.

  1. When you’re teaching a new tense, instead of teaching the full conjugation with all the subject pronouns, start with teaching just the “I” forms and then the “you” forms.  

Almost all of our natural communication is in these forms, so focus on them first.  Teach regular verbs, reflexive verbs and irregular verbs in just these two forms.

Here are a few examples from my Spanish Preterite Imperfect Unit.  For those of you who don’t speak Spanish, the first slide shows the formation of regular verbs in the “I” form, the second slide is practice (students click to see the answer),  and the third slide has fill in the blank sentences using the “I” form.

Preterite vs. Imperfect Lesson Plans

 

Preterite Imperfect Lesson Plans

 

Preterite Imperfect Lesson Plans

3.  Practice, practice, practice.  Have students ask each other questions and spend extra time with any irregulars.  Create small activities using especially awkward, but common irregulars so that students get used to hearing them and using them.

Tip:  Pick 3-4 irregulars to work on each day.  If you teach them all at once in a huge list, it’s much harder for students to learn them all (and remember, learning in lists is not how native speakers learn).

4.  Once students have mastered these, add the he, she forms, then the they forms, and finally, the we forms.  You’ll find that these are so much easier once students have mastered the first two forms.

Want more than just a few tips?  Find ready-made, teacher tested French and Spanish resources here including this 400 page preterite, imperfect unit.

Keep reading to find out more about teaching tricky irregular verbs in Part 2 of How to Teach Tricky Verbs and Grammar.



Happy Teaching!

~Sherry

World Language Cafe, engaging French and Spanish lesson plans for your class

 

How Native Speakers Learn Differently Than Language Learners

How Native Speakers Learn Differently Than Language Students

When I applied for a new teaching position this month, it made me realize how much my language teaching philosophy has changed as a result of raising my own kids bilingually.

Here are some of the differences that I have noticed from how native speakers learn a language and how many language teachers teach:

How Native Speakers Learn Languages

  • When we learn our native languages, we never conjugate verbs and we definitely don’t sit around the dinner table talking about verb tenses!  So why do we spend so much time doing this in class?
  • As parents, we don’t tell our kids that we can’t talk to them about what we did yesterday because they haven’t learned the past tense yet.  We incorporate complex vocabulary, grammar, and verb tenses in our daily language because that is how people speak naturally.
  • We correct our kids when they make mistakes in the language.  We don’t say, “I don’t want to hurt my son’s feelings because he’s saying it wrong.”  We just gently correct the child by saying it correctly and having them repeat it correctly.
  • Parents speak to the child all in one language (for the most part).  Some parents do a one parent, one language approach (one parent speaks one language and the other parent speaks a different language, but they are always consistent with the child).  Why is this?  Because it’s really hard for your brain to switch back and forth between languages (until you have reached a certain level of fluency).

It’s very difficult to replicate the repetition that you get as a native speaker with your parents speaking to you 24 hours a day when as teachers, we often only have between 1 and 5 hours a week with our students.

There just isn’t enough time! 

Read more about how to teach languages more effectively using my hybrid system (how native speakers learn, squeezed into 1-5 hours a week for maximum impact) in How to Teach Tricky Verbs and Grammar, Part 1.

Happy Teaching!

~Sherry

World Language Cafe, engaging French and Spanish lesson plans for your class



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Connect with Me

Just added this post with all my social media accounts so we can connect with each other.  I love hearing what you have to say, so please get in touch.  Thought you might like to know a little bit about me.  Click here to see my welcome video and get to know me better.

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Welcome to The World Language Café blog!  If you love languages, teaching, and learning about other cultures, this is the blog for you.   I’m so excited to share language teaching tips, lessons I’ve learned from raising my kids bilingually (as a non-native speaker), and travel stories.

One of the first things I like to do the first week of school in my classroom is to ask my students, “Why are you studying a language?”  Read more…

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Class Mascot Lesson Plan

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