Past and Present Verb Tenses

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SWBAT read and identify the difference between past and present verb tenses.

Big Idea

Reading, writing, and speaking informatively begins with knowing verb tenses.


Common Core Connection:

My focus throughout this unit is to lay the foundation for my students to become confident independent readers.  In order to do this I feel it important to give my students as many tools as possible to help them decipher the complexities of the English language.  As a seasoned first grade teacher I know my students enter my classroom with a wide range of experience, however, they do not know the nuts and bolts that make up the English language, let alone fully understand what exactly verb tense mean.  Using 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, this lesson focuses on RF.1.3f: read words with inflectional endings, because this is a very important foundational skill that children need to know in order to read, write, and speak informatively.

Lesson Overview:

In the previous lessons of this unit I introduced and had my students practice looking at text and pictures to determine the meaning of new or unfamiliar words.  I continued the lesson series by strengthening my students’ comprehension skills through close reading strategies to help them determine the character traits and retell the story.  In this lesson I felt it beneficial to my students understanding of word meanings by introducing them to verb tenses, and how verb tenses changes the actions of the character.  The basic principle behind this and the following lesson is to use children’s literature to teach the grammatical structures of written and spoken language.


  • Verdi, by Janelle Cannon
  • Verb Tense Power Point (teacher created) optional
  • Tense Match Activity Sheet (teacher created)


5 minutes

I began this lesson with my students on their chairs and explained that today we were going to look how word endings change the ‘time’ that the word takes place in.  This seemed to confuse my students a bit.  To help them I reminded them that a verb was an action word, or something they could do.  Since we had recently talked about verbs during English Language Development, or ELD, my students showed me they now understood by showing me a thumb up.  I further explained that when they added “ed” or “ing” these endings changed when the action takes place.   At this beginning level the explanation I gave: The endings “ed” and “ing” are verb endings that tell if the verb already happened or is still happening.

Guided Practice

15 minutes

I then showed the Verb Tense Power Point as I explained that verb endings tell us when the action took place.  The verb with no ending is called the base or root word, and it means what it says, “run” means “run”.  To further develop my students understanding, I continued the power-point presentation by turning it into an interactive activity where my students acted out the verb tenses (Introducing the Lesson) and relayed back to me what they had just acted out.  By making it interactive my students were participating and acting out the new words, this helps not only my ESL students, but all students because by adding movement I am targeting more learning modalities rather than just seeing and hearing.

After the last slide I restated that verbs endings tell us when the action happened.  And that verbs ending in “ed” have already happened, while verbs ending in “ing” are still happening. 

To check for understanding I had my students’ partner share with their table partner what the difference between words ending in “ed” compared to a word ending in “ing”.  When my students were finished sharing, I used the magic cup (Demonstration: Magic Cup) to call on a student pair to explain which verb tense is past and which is present.  These two students correctly shared with the class that words ending with “ed” meant the word ‘already happened’, and the “ing” word meant it was ‘happening now’.  The rest of my students agreed with this explanation by showing me a thumb up (Demonstration: Thumb Up, Thumb Down).  As my students were sharing I wrote “past tense” and “present tense” on the Promethean board and wrote “ed” under “past tense” and “ing” under “present tense”.   When my students were finished sharing I explained these were the terms we use to explain if the verb word already happened, or is happening now.

I then had my students stand up and walk to their rug area.  Once they were settled I showed them Verdi, and explained as I read the story they were to listen for the verbs.  I then read Verdi using tonal inflection to denote Verdi and all the other snakes he met while on his adventures.  

However, I wanted my students to hear the difference that verb tenses make during a reading.  To make the point that the correct verb tense sets the stage for comprehension, I instructed my students to listen again, I then re-read the first page of Verdi reading the verb tenses as root or base words.  This time when I finished reading the first page I asked my students what they thought.  As several hands shot up, one student ventured, “It sounded funny”, many students indicated they were going to say the same thing by showing me a thumb up.  How so I asked.  I gave my little ones a moment to think about this and time to talk it over with their rug partner.  When they were finished I used the magic cup to call on a student pair to share their thoughts with the class.  These two students did not know how to explain how it sounded funny without the verb tenses, to help them I asked for a volunteer.  Although several students volunteered, one child blurted out, “It sounded ‘bumpy’”.  My class seemed to think this was a good way to describe the reading without verb tensed, but I wanted to know what they meant by the word ‘bumpy’.  When I asked the class to explain what they meant by ‘bumpy’, the responses I got included, ‘it sounded like you were stopping’, ‘the words were not finished’, and ‘it sounded broke’.   Each one of these comments brought on a multitude of thumbs up, and, ‘that’s what I was trying to say’.

To finish this part of the lesson I asked my students it they would agree that the verb tense helps make the story sound smoother and easier to understand.  Their answer was a loud ‘yes’.

Collaborative Activity

15 minutes

For the collaborative activity I had my students stand up and look at a partner they wanted to work with.  Once my students had their partners I directed them to sit at the partner’s desk of which one was the tallest.  Over the years I have found that when students find their partners on their own and they are away from their desks, they need to be directed where to sit.

Once my students were settled at their desks I displayed Verb Tense Match Activity Sheet on the Promethean board and explained that they were to read the story words with their partner and together decide if it was a past tense or present tense verb.  They were then to choose one word from the story word box and write a sentence using that word.

As my students started working I rotated around the room listening to each partner pair.  It was not long before my students realized that all the words with “ed” endings went in the past tense box, while the “ing” words went in the present tense box.  My students were pretty excited about this, even though I had showed them this during the power-point.  I realized that seeing it was one thing, however, in order for my students to internalize the concept of past and present verbs they needed to actually sort and write them.  As one of my students noted, “I can’t believe it is always like this!”

As my students began to finish this activity, I collected their work and randomly selected 3 student pairs to display their finished work on the doc-u-cam and read their past and present word list to the class. 

Once we finished this activity my students reorganized into their differentiated leveled reading groups for the independent part of the lesson.

Independent Practice

20 minutes

While my students are in their differentiated leveled reading groups they rotate every 15 to 20 minutes through different ELA work areas.  One of the most important work areas is journal writing.  Journal writing is different than the writing block in that students apply what they learned during the writing block to their independent journal writing.  They also have a chance to practice putting what they just learned and practiced during the guided practice and collaborative activity in their own words.

The journal prompt I put on the Promethean board: Explain and give an example of when you would use ‘ed’ and ‘ing’. 

As my students rotate to my differentiated reading group I quickly check each journal for understanding and completeness.


Ticket Out the Door

5 minutes

To earn a sticker my students worked in small groups of 3 to act out the base, past, and present tense of three words from their Tense Match Activity Sheet