Lesson plan

Learning About Words: Past Tense

Use a playful theater activity to teach your first graders how to change a verb from the present to the past tense.
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This reading and writing lesson plan helps first graders expand their understanding of grammar by learning how to change a present-tense verb to a verb in the past tense. First, a playful theater activity gets children up and moving to facilitate their learning about words in the present and past tense. Then, young learners are guided through the process of adding -ed to the end of regular verbs to make them past tense verbs. Finally, children apply their new knowledge to a set of practice words.

Students will be able to recognize and write verbs using the past tense -ed.

(5 minutes)
  • Gather students together for the start of lesson.
  • Review what a verb is and explain what makes a verb special. For example, you might say, “Verbs are our action words and represent the things we do, such as run, eat, or walk.”
  • Ask your students to think of other verbs and record them on chart paper or your whiteboard.
  • Tell your class that today they will be practicing how to change a verb from the present tense, which means what is happening right now or in the present (e.g., “I walk”) to the past tense, or what already happened (i.e., “I walked”).
(10 minutes)
  • Point to the present tense verbs written on the board and explain that these are all called “present tense” because they describe an action that is happening in the present, or right now.
  • To illustrate past and present tense, point to a word on the board that students can act out (for example, walk or dance) and ask your class to stand up and complete the action.
  • Signal to stop and have students return to their seats on the rug. Ask them to describe their action in a sentence, “I just ____.”
  • Write the sentence up on the board (e.g., “I just danced”) and circle the ending of the verb (-ed).
  • Say, “When a verb changes from the present tense like walk, bike, dance, or cook to the past tense, we add an -ed to the end of the word. So walk becomes walked, bike becomes biked, dance becomes danced, and cook becomes cooked. We do this to show that something has already happened. For example, if I were to describe something we did in class yesterday, would I say, 'Yesterday we dance a lot at our dance party’ or would I say, ‘Yesterday we danced a lot at our dance party’? Which sounds better?"
  • Allow students a few moments to share out which sentence sounds (and looks) better and why.
  • Take a moment to explain that sometimes past tense verbs don’t follow the -ed rule. You can explain that some verbs are irregular, or follow a different pattern. For example, sing becomes sang, not singed, and run becomes ran, not runned. You can tell students that one way to tell if a verb follows the irregular pattern is to say the word aloud with an -ed at the end to hear how it sounds.
(10 minutes)
  • Pass out mini whiteboards (or clipboards with paper) to each student.
  • Have students write each of the remaining present tense verbs written on the whiteboard (from the previous section) one at a time.
  • After writing a word, ask them to change the verb to its past tense and hold the whiteboard up to share.
  • As you go over each word, write the correct past tense on the whiteboard or chart paper.
  • Remind students of the irregular past tense verbs.
  • Explain to students that they will now get to practice turning present tense verbs into past tense verbs on their own.
(15 minutes)
  • Go over the Past Tense Verb worksheet instructions with the class and send them to work independently.
  • Circulate around the room and offer support as needed.

Support: Gather students who need additional support into a small group. Write the present tense verbs on index cards and provide students with small whiteboards to practice writing the present tense verb and changing it to the past tense.

Enrichment: For additional practice for students who quickly finish the practice worksheet and/or need a more challenging activity, have students go on a past tense verb word hunt using books in the classroom library. See if students can identify and write the present tense verb.

(5 minutes)
  • Collect the Past Tense Verb worksheet and assess whether students were able to correctly change each verb to the past tense.
(5 minutes)
  • After the 15 minutes of independent work time has concluded, ask students to return to the rug with their worksheets.
  • Review as a whole class by writing a present tense word on the board and having students say the word aloud and tell you what you need to do to change it to past tense. Discuss student questions as needed.

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