How to teach past irregular verbs to kids learning English?
Below are a few useful teaching points and ideas taken from our 2 free Past Tense Activities – Irregular Verbs lesson plans.
What are past tense irregular verbs?
Past tense verbs come in two forms, regular and irregular. Regular past tense verbs are easy to form – you add “ed” to the end of the verb (e.g. I play guitar –> I played guitar). Irregular verbs however, are not formed so simply and have no consistent form. Therefore, their past tense forms have to be learned.
Here are some common irregular verbs with their past tense forms:
wake up –> woke up
eat –> ate
drink –> drank
go –> went
sing –> sang
swim –> swam
have –> had
come –> came
ride –> rode
do –> did
put –> put
sleep –> slept
give –> gave
write –> wrote
read –> read
run –> ran
Teaching points / tips
1. Review past tense regular verbs.
2. Teach vocab for irregular verbs in the present and past tense form
Before class, print 12 flashcards to use for irregular verbs (such as wake up, eat, drink, go to school, sing, swim, go home, ride a bike, do homework, put on, sleep, etc.). Divide the class up into groups of 3 or 4 and divide the flashcards between the groups.
Next, on the right-side of the board draw 12 circles. Students will be sticking the flashcards inside the circles, so make them just big enough to fit the cards inside. Under each circle write verbs for each flashcard (e.g. wake up – woke up, eat my breakfast – ate my breakfast, drink my milk – drank my milk, etc.)
Invite a student up with one of their flashcards and ask him/her to place it into the correct circle on the board – their team-mates can help. Keep going until all of the flashcards have been stuck on the board in the circles.
Next, chorus each verb three times (e.g. Teacher: “wake up, woke up”, Students “wake up, woke up” … 2 more times). Don’t worry at this stage if your students don’t understand why there are two versions of each verb – we’ll come to that next.
Finally, write the word “Yesterday” at the top of the board and draw a red circle around it and chorus “Yesterday”. Point at the first flashcard and say “Yesterday, I wake up. Is that ok? Wake up?”. Try and get someone to say the correct form “Woke up”. Circle the word “woke” in red (to signify this is the correct form of the verb to use with the word “Yesterday”). Now go through all of the remaining verbs asking your students which is the correct form and circling the past tense version in red.
3. Pair practice: saying past tense irregular verbs
In pairs, students are going to say the infinitive and past tense of the verbs together – once with both students looking at the board and the second time with one student looking away from the board (being tested).
First round: Put students in pairs. Start by modeling the activity with another student and both sit looking at the board. Teacher starts by saying the infinitive form of a verb and his/her partner has to say the past form with the phrase “Yesterday, I …”, for example:
Teacher: drink my milk.
Student: Yesterday, I drank my milk.
Teacher: ride my bike.
Student: Yesterday, I rode my bike.
Once everyone understands what to do, have the pairs go through all of the verbs, changing roles after all the verbs have been practiced so both get the chance to say the past forms.
Second round: Keep everyone in the same pairs, however one student must sit with their back to the board. Students do the same thing but the student with his/her back to the board must try and remember the correct past tense form – their partners can help if they get stuck. Again, change roles. Once finished, get everyone to find a new partner and try again, one with their back to the board.
4. Play “Past Tense Charades” in small groups
Start by modeling: look at the flashcards on the board (including the regular verbs on the left-side) and do an action or gesture. Elicit what you are doing using the structure “Yesterday, I …” (e.g.”Yesterday, I kicked a ball”, “Yesterday, I slept all night”).
Then put everyone in small groups of 3 or 4. One person in each group starts by acting out a verb and the other members have to shout out the correct answer using the structure “Yesterday, I …”. The first person in the group to say the correct answer can do the next action. Continue until each group has completed actions for all of the verbs.
5. Play “What did you do yesterday? Line Up”
Divide the class into two groups and have each group form a line, so that both teams are lined up facing each other. To begin, each team is going to race to pass a balloon up and down the line with the winning team the first to get the balloon passed back to the first student. Give a balloon (or rolled up paper ball) to the first member of each team. Say, “Ready, steady, go!”. Each team races to pass the balloon, hand-to-hand, up and down the line.
Next, give everyone a verb flashcard. Explain that each time you pass the balloon you have to ask “What did you do yesterday?” and when you receive the balloon you have to say “I (ate my breakfast)” depending on the flashcard you have been given. Both teams race, passing the balloon and saying the structures. You can play other rounds with different rules, such as:
- teams must pass the balloon without using their hands (e.g. under chins, between knees, etc.)
- teams can only tap the balloons – they can’t hold them in any way
- teams have to kick or head the balloons but not hold
Why not try adding these to your lesson from our website?
- download our practice worksheets “What did you do yesterday?” and “Irregular Verbs 2“.
- download our homework worksheets “Past Irregular Verbs” and “My Day Yesterday“.
- download our comparatives-themed classroom reader “Mr. Upside Down Man’s Busy Day“.
- download our songs “What did you do Yesterday?” and “Past Irregular Verbs Song“