Monday, December 31, 2007

Irregular Verb Chat Board

I often begin a high intermediate or advanced level grammar class (yes, at my school, we do have dedicated grammar classes - and they last three hours and meet three times per week! For more on teaching grammar, click here.) with a review of irregular verbs. Irregular verbs are important building blocks of our language. Making mistakes using irregular verbs are not 'fatal' (they do not usually impede comprehension of what the speaker is saying), but they do mark the speaker as not being well educated. In the case of not knowing them for the advanced Cambridge exam, repeated errors of many irregular verbs will lower a student's marks in writing, speaking, and English-in-Use. In addition, verbs such as teach, bring, and seek when used in the past tense may not be comprehensible to a non-native speaker if they do not recognize the root changes in spelling and pronunciation.

Here is a game board that I created for my intermediate through advanced level classes. I had tried using other similar boards, but they did not have enough verbs in my view; this one has 72 irregular verb forms. With this chat board, students practice using irregular verbs to make up questions and answers in the present perfect and simple past. For the fastest students, it takes about 20 minutes to do the whole board (but I've had classes spend 30 to 40 minutes on it). You can judge if the students are engaged or starting to lose interest. I usually ask fast finishers to go back and review the verbs that they didn't land on during the 'game.'

There are several advantages of using this board for communicative activity. First of all, the idea of using grammar in a game changes the mood of the students. They are given a model for how to ask yes/no questions using the present perfect followed by a simple past wh-question (information question), which requires a longer response. You can add to the activity by requiring students to ask an additional follow-up question using any verb to gather more information from their partner.

Second, students control the speed at which they perform the activity and can do it independently. The teacher can circulate around the room, listening to pairs, trios, or larger groups as they are asking and answering questions using the appropriate structures. Errors can be corrected quickly, and the teacher can also answer questions when students are unsure of meanings.

Irregular Verb Chat Board (print an 8.5x11 copy) Below are the model question and response forms that I write on the white board.
Equipment needed: Chat boards, dice, game pieces
Directions: If two students land on the same verb, they either move back or forward one to a different verb. Also students should understand that if they answer 'no' to the first question, their partner must continue asking a question until they respond, 'Yes, I have.' After a 'yes' response, the partner can then ask a wh-question. To speed up the activity, students can always answer 'yes.' It doesn't have to be true, and this is often fun and funny because students must make up information to respond to the wh-question:
Yes/No Question: Have you ever [verb/past participle]....?
Answers: Yes, I have./No, I haven't.
Wh-Question: When did you [verb/base form]? Why did you [verb]? (What...?, How...?, Who...?, Where...?, How much...?, How many....?
Answers: I [verb/simple past] yesterday./I [verb/simple past] because.... and so on.
**Exceptions: With the verb 'be', we do not use 'do' or 'did' to ask wh-questions. In addition, verbs such as 'cost' are not generally used with people as the subject, unless you're talking about how much slaves cost in the 1800's.
Student A: "Have you ever bought a car?"
Student B: "No, I haven't."
Student A: "Have you ever bought a bicycle?"
Student B: "Yes, I have."
Student A: "When did you buy a bike?"
Student B: "I bought a bicycle two years ago."

Finally, students in both conversation and grammar-focused classes all seem to appreciate that this simple activity using dice (a die) and game pieces (or small scraps of colored paper, jelly beans, m&m's, etc.) makes the reality that they're practicing grammar easier to digest.

This kind of board has multiple functions. For more advanced level students, it can be used to practice the second, third and mixed conditional forms. Again, you should model the structure on the board for students, and then let them have a go at it. I hope you enjoy using this 'chat board' in your own classes.


tinkerbellchime said...

This is a great activity. Nice game board.

Evelyn said...

Thank you. I've used it for several years in all my grammar classes and sometimes in conversation classes to get students focused on using irregular verbs in the present perfect and simple past forms. I hope you and others will find ways to use my game board often with your students.

Almadreams said...

Fascinating and ingenious! After 15 years researching irregular verbs we have just self-published a specialised dictionary which illustrates how verbs are being used in the English speaking world. We spent years searching for real quotations which would not only help to illustrate how the verb is used, but also would be entertaining in themselves. The result, "Express Yourself Better in English - Dictionary of Irregular Verbs with Quotations" is not just a useful dictionary designed to make the teaching and learning of irregular verbs entertaining, but we think it is also a very browseable book. We are now researching the different ways that teachers around the world teach these verbs, and yours is definitely one of the most ingenious. Congratulations!

evelyn said...

Thanks very much for your comment, almadreams. I'm glad that you like my Irregular Verb board game. I still use it in my grammar classes, and it always pleases me to know that others find it useful - even 'ingenious'! :-)

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evelyn said...

Thanks, marry! I hope that you'll visit 'Many Englishes' often. Best wishes.

Anonymous said...
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ayat said...

Thanks a million!!!!

I will include this activity/game in my research paper about how to teach irregular verbs to ESL adult students!!! and certainly will use it on my classroom...thanks again

Evelyn said...

You're very welcome! I'm glad that my game board has found its way into your classroom. And I would be very interested in seeing your research paper when you finish it. Hope you'll come back and visit my blog regularly.

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Eduardo said...

Really good idea on utilizing a big list of irregular verbs.
Thanks for the post :-)

evelyn said...

Thanks for your comment, Eduardo. It always makes me feel happy to know that teachers find this irregular verb game board useful.

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I'm glad that you followed your friend's suggestion and visited 'Many Englishes.' I hope that you'll come back and visit often.

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