Irregular Past Tense Verbs

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SWBAT recognize and read irregular past tense verbs.

Big Idea

There is no rule about irregular past tense verbs; children will need to learn each one individually.


Common Core Connection:

Unlike regular past tense verbs, there are no set rules for irregular past tense verbs: which means students will have to learn them individually.  In this lesson I continue to use children’s literature to teach the ‘rules’ of grammar.  Keeping in mind that children learn best when they discover the ‘rule’ themselves, it is our role as teachers to make sure children have lots of exposure to the target goal of learning verb tenses in different contexts, and to direct their attention to how it is used in reading and writing.  This lesson continues exploring CCRA.R.4: interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone, as well as RF.1.3f: read words with inflectional endings.

Lesson Overview:

In yesterday’s lesson I introduced my students to regular past tense verbs by reading to them a class favorite, Verdi, by Janell Cannon.  Today I continued the lesson by introducing my students to irregular verbs by reading Pussycats Everywhere, and modeling the difference between regular and irregular verbs.  I then gave my students time to read Where the Wild Things Are and find the irregular verbs with their partner.


  • Pussycats Everywhere, by Sheila McGraw
  • Xeroxed copies of Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak, one per student pair, not included
  • Verdi, by Janell Cannon
  • Irregular Past Tense Activity Sheet (teacher created)


5 minutes

With my students sitting on their rug squares I began this lesson by reviewing the regular verb tenses I introduced my students to from the previous lesson.  To get my students started I had my students turn to their rug partner as I instructed them to tell each other what two rules they practiced yesterday that changed the time an action took place.  After a brief moment I called my students attention back to me and used the magic cup (Demonstration: Magic Cup) to call on a partner pair to answer the question for the class.  These two students shared that, “the ‘ed’ word meant they already did it, and the ‘ing’ word meant they were doing it now”.  The rest of the class agreed with this explanation by showing me a thumb up (Demonstration: Thumb Up, Thumb Down).  I wanted my students to go a little further by actually using the word verb or action word, so I continued by asking, ‘What do you mean, did it already and doing it now, what types of words are those?  With this question my students called out verbs or action words. 

Satisfied that they were comfortable with the term verb and knew it meant an action word, and feeling they understood what a past tense verb was.  I whispered, ‘Today we are going to learn a different way verbs tell us something already happened’.  My students leaned in and excitedly asked, “What is it”!  I whispered back, “It’s called an irregular past tense verb, and I am going to teach you”.  This brought on anticipated cheers of excitement.

Guided Practice

20 minutes

I then held up my copy of Verdi and had my students share with their rug partners what happened in the beginning, middle, and end of this story.  Even though this was not the focus of the lesson, it is an important comprehension skill that students need to frequently practice.  Once my students finished sharing, I used the magic cup to select three partner pairs to each share one section of the story.  As these students related the sequenced events of Verdi, the rest of my students showed me they agreed with a thumb up.  I then asked my students to think about the verbs we had learned and practiced after reading Verdi, as hands shot up to share I used the magic cup to call on four students to share one word from yesterday’s lesson.  These students shared the verbs: whispered, leaping, tapped, and smiled.   As always I am thinking of ways to enhance my students’ conceptual thinking, in this case, after each of these students shared their verb, I had the other students act them out.  By doing so I was re-enforcing that verbs are action words.

Once finished with this review I introduced Pussycats Everywhere and explained that we would use this story to learn about irregular verbs.   Before I could continue, one thing that I was not counting on happened.  One student asked, “Ms. Collins, why is it call irregular”?  My other students nodded their heads, indicating they were thinking the same thing.  I felt it important for my students to ‘discover’ on their own there is a rule for regular past and present tense verbs, whereas there is no set rule for irregular verbs.  With this in mind, I countered with, ‘What is at the end of a verb that lets you know it already happened’?  My students called out “ed”!  That’s right, I agreed, ‘And how do you know an action word is happening right now’? I asked.  “Because it has ing”, my students called back.  I then asked, ‘What are the rules’?  My students were clear that “ed” and “ing” were the rules used to change the ‘time’ the action takes place.  I agreed and said, ‘That is why they are called regular verbs, they follow a rule to let us know when the action is taking place’.  After a very brief pause, my one student asked, “Does that mean the other verbs do not have rules”?  The look of surprise on the faces of my other students told me it was time to tell my students that, yes, irregular verbs do not follow the rules. 

With that, I instructed my students to listen as I read Pussycats Everywhere.  I began reading using my best tonal inflection for dramatic affect and to draw my students’ attention to the irregular verbs.  I read all the words correctly at the beginning of the story, however when I came to the page: When Mom and Dad saw thirty-seven cats, their eyes growed big.  At this point I stopped and asked my students if they noticed anything about how I just read that passage.  I purposely chose the word grew and read it growed because anyone with experience working with First graders knows that growed is a common grammatical mistake that First graders make, and I wanted my little ones to hear this mistake and correct it on their own. 

At first my students seemed unaware that I read the passage incorrectly, however, after I repeated it, my more advanced readers pointed out that I said growed instead of grew.  That’s right I said, and continued by asking, ‘If the word is grew instead of growed, does it follow the rules’?  My students all yelled out “no”!  No it does not I agreed and said, ‘That is because it is an irregular verb.  Irregular verbs are action words that already happened, but they do not end with “ed”’.   Before I continued reading I reminded my students that these verbs do not follow rules and that they had to pay attention to them.  I continued reading and every time I came to an irregular verb I pointed to my students and had them repeat it. 

To give my students a little extra practice at sequencing, when I finished reading I gave my students a moment to think about the sequenced events in the story.  I then used the magic cup to select three students to relay to the class what happened at the beginning, middle, and end of the story.  Once this side activity was complete I moved to the focus of irregular verbs by asking my students if they could restate any of the verbs they repeated when I pointed to them.  I gave my students a moment to think about this and called on students who raised their hands.  These students gave me a list that included: said, brought, knew, went, kept, thought, slid, bought, took, told, and sat.  I asked: ‘What makes these verbs irregular’?  My students all called out, “They don’t follow the rules”.  Wanting to go a little further, I asked: ‘What are the rules’?  This time my students called out, “Ed and ing”.

At this point I felt it time to give my students the opportunity to demonstrate they could identify the irregular verbs from the story.  

Collaborative Activity

20 minutes

At this point I had my students’ pair up with a friend who was not in their same reading group.  I did this so that my more proficient readers would be reading with and helping my students who are at lower reading levels.  I have found over the years that students who are stronger readers also have a higher vocabulary and usually when they talk they use better grammar.  In this activity I wanted to have strong student models because I have observed that sometimes children learn better from other students. 

Once my students were paired up I had them seat at the desks of the student who was the shorter of the two.  By giving this direction my students know where to sit because they are not working with their regular desk partner.  When my students were settled at their desks, I displayed the Irregular Past Tense Activity Sheet on the Promethean board and passed out the Xeroxed copies of Where the Wild Things Are.  I explained to my students they were to take turns reading the entire story, by Partner One reading 2 pages, then Partner Two reading 2 pages, as shown in Taking Turns Reading.  Once they were finished reading they were to go back and look for words in the story that were irregular past tense verbs, or action words that did not follow the rules and circle them.  When they finished circling the words they were to look at their Irregular Verb activity sheet and match the irregular verb to its meaning. This two boys are Working Together to finish their work.

I checked for understanding by using the magic cup to select a student to repeat the directions to the class.  When this student was finished and I was satisfied my students understood the directions I pulled my beginning reading group to my large table to work with them.

At the end of 15 minutes I checked to see where my students were, noting most of them were close to finishing I gave them a few more minutes to complete their work.

At the end of 20 minutes I randomly selected 2 student pairs to share their work with the class by displaying their activity sheets on the doc-u-cam.  As these students displayed and shared their work with the class, the rest of the students compared their answers with the displayed work.  I do this to add meaning to my students work because my students know I am going to use the magic cup to select someone to display their work, they want their work to be finished and neat.  It gives the selected student a since of pride when he/she is called on to share their work and the other students agree the answers are correct because they have the same answers.  While the selected students are sharing their work, I am also walking around my students monitoring their work to make sure it is finished and they are self correcting if they need to.

When we finished this activity I had my students separate into their leveled reading groups for the independent part of the lesson.

Independent Practice

15 minutes

During this time my students are in their leveled reading groups where they rotate through different activities every 15 to 20 minutes.  Besides working with me in their differentiated reading groups, I always provide my students with a journal prompt.  I is important to give students many opportunities to practice what they just learned to help make the conceptual idea concrete knowledge.

The journal prompt I put on the Promethean board: Explain the difference between a regular past tense verb and an irregular past tense verb.

When my students rotate to my reading group I quickly check their journals for completeness and understanding.  In the event I find too many students are not writing an expected answer or explanation, I know I need to go back and re-teach, either through a mini lesson or small group instruction.

Ticket Out the Door

5 minutes

For a sticker my students paired up and acted out 3 irregular verbs from their activity sheet.