I’m sure we can all relate to this on a certain level; when grappling with the English langauge, particularly at lower levels, many learners struggle to use appropriate verb tenses. With so many functions, forms, rules and exceptions, selecting the proper verb tense can be challenging.
Fortunately, as teachers we can use games to help our learners internalize verb tense ‘appropriacy’ and identify when they need to use each tense. The three games I outline in today’s post make learning entertaining, increasing learners’ motivation to focus on the task at hand and enable them to commit ‘verb grammar’ to memory.
Game 1: Tense Relay
Learners create a tense chart while running an exciting relay race.
OK, there’s a little bit of prep work to this one! Before class, you need to create tense cards. Write verb sets on cards, listing the past, present and future tenses of each verb on separate sheets. Create these sets of three with 10 different verbs (10 should suffice).
Create another identical set on cards of a different color, allowing each of two teams to have an identical set of verb cards. Divide the board in half. On each side write past, present and future across the top of the board.
Playing the game
When learners come to class, divide them into two teams. Tell them they are going to run a tense relay race. Line learners up in single file in front of the board. Provide the first person in each line with a roll of masking tape. Stand at the middle of the board, holding both sets of cards.
Tell learners that when you shout go, one person from each team must run up to you and get a set of three cards. Then, using the masking tape, they need to place the three cards in the appropriate verb tense category. Once they have placed their verbs, they run to their line, pass off the masking tape and move to the back of the line. Then the next learner in the group comes up and gets the next set of three cards.
After explaining the rules, get your learners to complete the relay race. Once a team has finished their card placements, check them. If they have errors, get the team to correct the errors while the other team continue to work on their placements. The team that is first to correctly place all of its verbs wins.
Game 2: Verb Tense Elimination
Learners practice identifying the correct tense in this competitive elimination game.
This one’s a bit simpler to prep for. Before class, create three sheets of paper that say past, present and future. Create enough copies for each learner to have a complete set of three.
‘Wii contest’ by @purple_steph from #ELTPics
Playing the game
As learners arrive at class, pass the pages out, giving one set of three to each learner. Ask learners to stand next to their desks with their three sheets of paper. Then tell the learners that you will read the sentences aloud and they need to hold up the card that identifies the tense in which that sentence is written. If a learner holds up an incorrect tense card, he is eliminated and has to sit down. The last learner standing wins the battle of the tenses.
Game 3: Tense Change-up
Teams of learners race to change the tense of a written passage in this rapid-fire game.
Before class, look through whatever novels you have lying around. Photocopy several paragraphs that feature various tenses. Try to select some paragraphs that are in past, some in present and some in future tense. On top of the sheet containing the paragraph, write the tense in which the paragraph is written.
Playing the game
Start by dividing the class into groups of three or four learners each. Then give each group a copy of one of the selected paragraphs. Place the paragraph copies face down, telling learners not to peek before the game starts. Provide each group with a large sheet of white paper on which they can write their responses. Tell learners that when you say “go,” they need to switch the paragraph from the current tense to the tense you’re about to provide them. Tell learners to rewrite the entire paragraph, changing any words necessary to conform to the tense.
Tell learners to flip their paragraphs over, then yell out tenses that are different from the ones in the paragraphs already written. The groups will race to alter their paragraphs. Once they are done, ask them to raise their hands. Tell all of the other groups to stop as you check the work of the finished group. Read the paragraph aloud, and ask the other learners to vote with a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, indicating whether the tense changes are all correct. If the paragraph contains errors, allow the other groups to try until one group has successfully made the changes first.