After six weeks of instruction at the beginning of the year, we had the first District writing assessment. Students had to write a personal narrative following the prompt: "Write about a time you did an activity with your family or friends." The analysis of their writing sent me running to the drawing board to come up with some lessons to address very specific needs: verbs in past tense , adding adjectives, and compound sentences. Although these are Language Standards (L.1.e. Use verbs to convey a sense of past, present, and future; L.1.f Use frequently occurring adjectives; L.1.g Use frequently occurring conjunctions; and L.1. j. Produce and expand complete simple and compound declarative, interrogative, imperative and exclamatory sentences in response to prompts), they are essential components of strong personal narrative writing.
The goal of this lesson was to teach students to use the past tense of regular verbs when referring to actions that occurred in the past.
I started the lesson by explaining to my class that, when they write personal narratives, they are telling us about things that already happened and that they must make sure that they verbs show that. I gave them some examples to show them how the verb changes: I talk to my friends every day/ Yesterday, I talked to my friends. I made sure to exaggerate the ending.
Then I had some of them act out an action and we chorally said the sentence describing it. I asked the first volunteer to come to the front of the class. Then I said "Jump!" She complied after a look of incredulity. (Of course there was laughter, but my students know that when we do something unusual or exciting, I pick those who are behaving well, and soon they subdued their giggles.) Then I asked the class what she had done. When they answered, "She jumped." We did this several times, and each time I emphasized the verb ending (this is important for English Learners).
I told the class that when we talk or write about things that already happened, we need to pay attention to the verb ending. I had them repeat the word "jump" and "jumped," and we talked about the difference between them, used both tenses in sentences, wrote both verbs on a chart (see resource section). Finally I asked them to repeat, "Yesterday, she jumped." Then I asked for individuals to repeat the sentenced and praised them when they enunciated the ending clearly.
We repeated the process with other regular verbs.
You can see the chart we generated in the resource section.
I had students return to their desks and, using a piece of paper folded into quadrants, create four sentences using past tense verbs to tell about something that happened in the past.
For students who were having difficulty, I added sentence frames to the board to support them:
When it was time to go to recess, students lined up and I told them that they had to give me a "ticket out the door". They had to tell me something they had done, making sure I could here the verb ending.