Using the correct tenses are so significant in writing and speaking, but so often we teach tense within other lessons. I want to bring clarity by giving attention through two stand-alone lessons.
I tell the kids we're going to speak and write Present Tense in only present tense for the next few minutes. They turn to a partner and tell them something that's "in the moment." They write down a few of these statements Writing Sentences in Present Tense and bring them to the basket at the front Drop Basketof the room. Once there's a class collection in place, I randomly read the sentences out loud. If a pair hasn't written their's in present tense, I set that example aside to discuss later.
Ask which words help them determine that the sentences are indeed the present tense. Pass the sentences back to the students- sometimes I return their own to them, and sometimes I just pass them back at random. Their task is now to change those sentences by putting them in past tense Changing present to past. They bring them back to the basket Dropping off the cards when finished, and they're reread to the class in their new form. We display some examples on the Smart Board Student SentencesThe kids begin to identify which words indicated past tense before I ask, which shows how routine things can become. After going over them, we're ready to begin our activity.
The students will eventually write eight line poems in present tense, but first I provide the class with examples. The poetry books I used. The Desert is Theirs by Byrd Baylor and A Poem Can Say It selected by Lilian Moore. Any poetry book will work. We do a choral reading of the poem, then repeat, if necessary. After the readings, I ask them which words stand out as the present tense clues. Once identified I tell them that THOSE are the words they'll be concentrating on. Their task? To change the poem from present to past tense. Changing poems from present to past. Using rhyming poetry may be a little challenging if the past tense counterpart requires it to rhyme as well. Often, however, the tense changes Present to Past, but the poem remains nearly intact. Student working on the tense. Changing more poems
After the poetry changes have been established, it's time for the kids to write poems of their own. I give them range to compose any type of poem that they want, as long as it's in the present tense. Once completed, they bring their poem to the front of the room for the "exchange." The next pair to finish will come forward and exchange with them. Once the pairs have another group's poem, it's their task to turn that present tense into past tense.
I decided to use this lesson with poetry because poems can be short, easy to alter, and are a favorite when it comes to student writing. The kids enjoy the challenge and get creative
*A variation of this lesson is to take PAST tense and change it to PRESENT tense. I include a video in this section to give an example of this.
A lot of students are motivated to share their masterpieces Reading their own poem. I think it's because they've worked with a partner (lowering potential inhibition over personal poems) and have had a good time with their creations. Most of these poems are silly plus written with the knowledge that others will be tampering with them.
Presentations may take a while, but it's entertaining, and worth it. It's a wonderful opportunity to practice presentation and speaking skills. The kids didn't want me to pause the activity -we were running out of time- when I told them we'd have to finish in the afternoon. Pause we did, which was a good idea. Each group should have the opportunity to laugh and have fun with the activity without looking at the clock.
Homework is to rewrite a story that's written in present tense into a past tense version. Student Example of Homework