Do you feel like you’re often taking shots in the dark while targeting irregular past tense verbs? These words can be difficult to teach, leaving us feeling frustrated with minimal recorded progress. Luckily, there are many ways to target these verbs. I’ve compiled a comprehensive list sharing tons of easy-to-implement strategies that you can use immediately to streamline your process and help teach these verbs more efficiently.
Introduction – Discuss what irregular verbs are and give examples using words in error, like, “I goed to the store”, “He drinked his milk”, “She eated a sandwich”, etc. This will hopefully get your students attention and they may be able to correct you. If you know your student uses some irregular verbs correctly, try to take note of this, jot a few of their correct words down, and use these words as your example so they have the ability to correct you. This will help build their confidence and understanding by leading with their strengths. It’s also a good segue into the teaching portion of the lesson.
TEACH, TEACH, TEACH – Irregular verbs need to be memorized or acquired through a lot of modeling/exposure. There’s no one-stop-shop for teaching these and one single strategy won’t work for all students. You’re going to spend A LOT of time teaching, maybe more than practicing for a while.
- Types of Intervention Approaches
– Clinician Directed (Explicit) – discrete trials, presented targets, manipulation of input
– Hybrid – Imitation, modeling/focused stimulation
– Child-Directed (Implicit) – recasting, using natural context, following the interest of the child
*Use all these approaches together for the best outcome.
- Auditory bombardment at the end of the session has been proven to be slightly more beneficial compared to auditory bombardment in the beginning (Plante et al. 2018) Pairing auditory bombardment with conversational recast produced significant effects for children with DLD.
- Explicit teaching resulted in better outcomes in grammar teaching (Finestack & Fey, 2009) & (Finestack, 2018).
- Click here for a great free handout on different intervention approaches
Target patterns – One thing that has helped my students TREMENDOUSLY has been grouping words by pattern of change. I teach all the words in each group together. This helps them memorize words faster and start linking words together. For example, a student might remember drive and ride are in the same group. If they know ride changes to rode, it can help trigger their memory to recall drive changes to drove. I keep data and monitor their progress to see how they are doing and if there are certain groups they are doing better or worse with. Click here to check out a resource that has everything you need to teach verbs grouped by pattern of change.
Progress Monitoring – You can use premade data sheets or probes like the one pictured above, take qualitative data, use cloze tasks, or collect language samples. If possible, it’s best to get a combination of data. For language samples, I like the use the free app Voice Recorder & Audio Editor, then I save the sample and email it to myself so I can save it to the student’s digital file on my work laptop. This is a great way to look at improvements over time and give the student something that they can listen back to.
Make Videos Modeling Irregular Verbs – My students LOVE doing this! Record short videos on an iPad (if you have one) or your work laptop and have students act out certain irregular verbs while you record. For example, you hit record, say “hide” and your student can hide under the table. Then you watch it together and have your student explain the video using that irregular verb like “I hid under the table”. Some easy ones to do in your room are hide, draw, write, take, read, stand, speak, go, bring, blow, bend, sit, etc. There are TONS you can do and lots of students like being the star of the show. You can save these videos and review them regularly with the student practicing the depicted irregular past tense verb.
Structured Repetition – Students need TONS of repetition and practice with these. You can play games with irregular verbs cards like these. I like playing memory, go fish, I hide the cards around the room, there are so many activities you can do with pairs of words. Another great activity I use a lot for practice is this irregular verb BINGO set. The visuals are great for teaching, practicing, and assessing. When we are practicing I cover the past tense verb, show the present tense, then see if any students know the past tense. Once we have guesses I show the past tense and they check their BINGO sheets. The pictures show both past and present tense and are great for structured repetition. If you need a digital activity, check out this irregular verb board game! My students have loved playing this during teletherapy sessions and in-person on the iPad.
Books – Pick out irregular past tense verbs in books. I like to have my students write them after we identify and practice them. You can use pretty much any book to do this.
Pictures/Verb Cards – This falls under structured practice and repetition. I use verb cards showing real people completing actions A LOT. This is one app I use that has tons of pictures of irregular verbs and allows you to track data.
Visual Scenes – Now we’re upping the difficulty. I like using SPARK Cards and loaded scenes to target verbs with students who are a bit more advanced. I have my students describe the scenes and they naturally use a lot of irregular past tense verbs that we then explicitly work on.
Wordless Picture Books – These are some of my absolute favorite books! Have your students narrate a story using the images in the book. Encourage them to tell a story that already took place so they use more irregular past tense verbs.
Here’s a list of my favorite wordless picture books that I personally own (affiliate links):
“Frog Goes to Dinner“
“Frog, Where Are You“
“A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog“
“Wolf in the Snow“
“One Little Bag“
Wordless Videos – Pixar has a bunch of short wordless videos. I recommend previewing them before you use them. Most, if not all of the ones I’ve found have been great. Here’s a link to one of my favorites!
Narrative generation – This goes along with the wordless books, videos, visual scenes, etc. Here are some of my favorite ways to work on narrative generation while still primarily focusing on those irregular past tense verbs.
– Toontastic free app
– Rory’s Story Cubes
– Story Spinners for Mixed Speech Therapy Groups
I hope this list helps you implement some new strategies to better support your students. I’ve had great success using a combination of these approaches and tools, and I hope you have the same experience!