How to Teach English Verb Tense to Children

Written by susan ruckdeschel
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How to Teach English Verb Tense to Children
Children can learn a great deal about verb tense through speaking and writing activities. (Business image by morchella from

When students can understand the various functions that verbs serve and how they can change to reflect past, present and future events, as well as why they change, they're well on their way to speaking and writing with mastery. This can be accomplished using a combination of multimedia and hands-on writing activities.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Hat
  • Notebook paper
  • Pencils

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  1. 1

    Tell students what the lesson will involve by reading and showing them the objectives. Read them together and discuss some examples of verb tense.

  2. 2

    Model and demonstrate what you'll be teaching and they'll be learning. Talk about events of the present day and write down the verbs used. Talk about the events of yesterday, and make a list of those verbs. Talk about what will take place tomorrow, listing out those verbs. Discuss the verbs and their differences.

  3. 3

    Ask students to make statements about yesterday, today, and tomorrow. As they recite their sentences, add the verbs they use to the board. Discuss why it is important that they learn to use verb tense correctly.

  4. 4

    Instruct students to name various events, personal and historical: baseball season, their birthday, a famous person's birthday, the president's birthday, holidays, current news and any other event they can think of. List the events in columns labelled "past" "present" and "future." For example, birthdays would go in the "future" column; Lincoln's birthday would go in the "past" column. Anyone's birthday on that day would go in the "present" column. Try to balance out the columns by placing an even number of events in each, even if more need to be thought of.

  5. 5

    Instruct students to choose one event and write two sentences about it. After they write their sentences, they must identify whether it is past, present or future. List all of the verbs from each sentence on the board in the same past, present and future matrix that was used for the events idea brainstorming.

  6. 6

    Instruct them to take their sentences and exchange them with a partner. When a new sentence is received, they must rewrite it in another tense.

  7. 7

    Point out to students that verbs can tell what happens, as well as when. Discuss how that happens using the sentences they wrote. Pull sentences randomly out of a hat and discuss the tense, and then list the verbs on the board in their proper matrix column.

  8. 8

    As a follow-up activity, have students write some "silly tense sentences" using verbs written on the board for silly sentences. For example, "went" and "talked" can be combined as "Sarah went far away and talked too much" or "turned" and "talked" can be combined as, "Our teacher turned away and we talked behind her back."

  9. 9

    Encourage the use of verbs in conversation by allowing the students opportunities to pair up and have discussions that retell events, such as what happened yesterday, over the weekend, at an event they attended, or something they're looking forward to attending. As they speak, the other group members write down all of the verbs.

  10. 10

    Write the students' verbs out on a list and discuss them as they're used in discussion. Help students make the connection to verb tense as the words are spoken and written.

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