While most French verbs follow a pattern for conjugation based on their suffix, there are hundreds of irregular verbs that break these patterns. Regular and irregular verbs, combined with 14 possible tenses for each of the six conjugation forms, make teaching French verbs challenging. However, there are several different strategies that can be used to teach French verbs.
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Regular Verb Patterns
French verbs all end with the "-er", "-ir" and "-re" morphemes (the smallest component of a word that contains meaning). Regular French verbs follow a particular pattern depending on their morphological suffix. These patterns are short and easy for students to remember. Have students follow the conjugation rules for all six pronoun categories: je, tu, il/elle/on, nous, vous, and ils/elles. Regular verbs follow specific patterns in various tenses. Teach students these basic patterns to help them learn all of the regular French verbs easily. Since the patterns are short and only pertain to three types of verbs, students can easily memorise the rules for regular French verbs.
Any mnemonic devices you create can help students memorise French verbs. A mnemonic device is a short, creative word or phrase that helps you memorise a longer list of data. For example, "Dr. and Mrs. Vandertramp" is an easy way of memorising which French verbs use "etre" in the passe compose, or past tense. The letters in the name relate to a particular French verb: descendre, rentrer, mourir, retourner, sortir, venir, arriver, naitre, devenir, entrer, revenir, tomber, rester, aller, monter, and partir. Teachers can create mnemonic devices to help students with a particular set of French verbs. Having students create their own mnemonics is even more effective because they will have less trouble memorising a pattern they themselves created.
Songs are a way to have students connect a potentially difficult set of French verbs or patterns to a catchy tune. While teachers are free to create their own songs or have students do the same, two popular songs help students with "-ir" present tense suffixes and "etre" passe compose verbs. Teachers can set the "-ir" suffixes from the Regular Verb Patterns section to the tune of the Mexican Hat Dance. Students can memorise "etre" passe compose verbs by combining the tune of Yankee Doodle with "Mourir, naitre, entrer, rentrer, retourner, descendre / monter, tomber, revenir et arriver ensemble / Tout le monde doit devenir bons eleves francais / Sortir, partir, venir, aller, rester et passer par."
Students can create their own stories using French verbs to help them remember certain ones. For example, many of the "etre" passe compose verbs listed in the previous section deal with actions that could all occur within a house. You could have students draw a house and label each action with the appropriate verb, such as a man walking up a staircase labelled "monter." Stories are useful for more than memorising because they can help students practice various tenses with both regular and irregular verbs.
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