So far in this series entitled, “Teaching Grammar In The Target Language,” we’ve discussed:
- Teaching “To Want” and “To Have” Verbs – Part 1
- Focusing on “To NOT Want” and “To NOT Have” Verbs – Part 2
- Teaching subject pronouns Part 1 & Part 2
- Numbers review – Part 3
- Teaching how sentence components change with quantity change – Part 3
- Teaching future tense conjugations of the verb “To Eat” – Part 4
- Teaching L2 “Question Words” – Part 2, Part 3 & Part 4
In this post (Part 5) we will discuss how to introduce the past tense forms of some verbs while staying in the target language.
Remember our main approach/principle for teaching grammar while staying in the target language is…
…give students MEANINGFUL EXPERIENCES in which the target grammar structures are used often enough to be noticed and acquired.
Read the following script of how a teacher uses this approach in the foreign language classroom. (Note: The following Part 5 transcript is written in English, although you should imagine the teacher saying all of her statements in the language that you teach. i.e. French, Russian, Arabic, etc.)
Without saying anything, Teacher passes out several individual size boxes of variety cereals (including Cheerios, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Lucky Charms) to students who are sitting quietly and attentively. Everytime Teacher places a box on a student’s desk, she motions for silence and stillness by saying, “Shhh.”
Once the cereal is passed out, and all students are sitting quietly (and no cereal box has been opened), Teacher writes the following L2 sentences on the board:
“Who has Lucky Charms?” “Who will eat Lucky Charms?”
“_____ has Lucky Charms.” “____ will eat Lucky Charms.”
While standing next to the sentences on the board, Teacher starts looking around the room and identifies which student has which cereal by saying, “Rontrell has Cheerios. Okay. Rontrell will eat Cheerios. Isabella has Cheerios too. Yes. Rontrell and Isabella have Cheerios. So Rontrell will eat Cheerios and Isabella will eat Cheerios. And. …and… (teacher looks around the room to see who else has a different variety cereal) …and, let’s see…umm…William. Yes, William. William doesn’t have Cheerios. William has Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Yes, William has Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Rontrell and Isabella have Cheerios…and…William has Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Rontrell and Isabella will eat Cheerios and William will eat Cinnamon Toast Crunch.”
Teacher raises her hand, (to imply that she would like students to volunteer to answer her questions) and asks, “Who has Lucky Charms? Who will eat Lucky Charms?” Teacher calls on a volunteer to answer. If the student answers with an incomplete sentence, Teacher uses the Two-Hand Method to elicit a complete L2 sentence. Teacher rewards students for participating and using the target language. (Consider using ClassDojo.com to reward on-task behavior.)
Teacher continues asking students the target questions from the board until she feels all students, or almost all, have understood how they are supposed to use these L2 questions and answers.
Teacher walks towards a student (who has cereal) and says, “Rontrell. Go ahead. Eat. Eat. Eat your Cheerios.” Teacher walks to Isabella and says, “Isabella. Go ahead. Eat. Eat. Eat your Cheerios.” Teacher continues saying this to all the cereal eaters until all of them have opened the boxes and eaten their cereal. After each student has received directions to eat, and while students are still eating, Teacer keeps saying, “Eat. Eat. Eat your cereal. Yum. Delicious. Delicious. Eat. Eat.”
When students are done eating, Teacher asks each student to throw away the trash and return to their seats to pay attention to the next portion of the lesson.
To introduce past tense forms of the verb “To Eat”:
Teacher pauses in front of the room looks at all the students who have returned to their seats from throwing away their trash.
Teacher writes the following L2 phrase on the board:
“I ate ______.”
Teacher walks to Rontrell and says, “What did you eat? Did you eat Cinnamon Toast Crunch or did you eat Cheerios?” (If Rontrell answers with an incomplete sentence, Teacher points to the board to imply that he should answer completely using the sentence written on the board. If Rontrell has trouble, Teacher uses the Two-Hand Method to help him succeed.)
Teacher walks to Isabella and says, “Isabella, what did you eat? Did you eat Cinnamon Toast Crunch or did you eat Cheerios?” Teacher waits for Isabella’s answer and accepts it if/when it’s a complete L2 sentence.
Teacher continues like this until all cereal-eating students have been asked (and have answered) the target question, “What did you eat?”
Teacher introduces and practices the 3rd person form of the past tense verb by doing the following:
Teacher walks to the board and tries to write down who ate which cereals. Teacher will purposefully get confused and write some wrong answers. She uses this strategy to motivate students to use L2. Students will think it’s funny and fun to see Teacher’s mistakes and correct them. At the same time they will be having to learn and use the correct 3rd person form of a past tense L2 verb.
Teacher goes to the board and begins to write the list:
Rontrell ate Cheerios.
William ate Cheerios. (side note: incorrect)
Students start interrupting and saying, “No, no, no!” because William didn’t eat Cheerios. Isabella ate Cheerios.
Noticing that the students are correcting her, Teacher turns around from her writing and says, “William didn’t eat Cheerios? Are you sure? William didn’t eat Cheerios?” Teacher uses the Two-Hand Method to help the students say, “No! William did not eat Cheerios.” Teacher pretends like she understands now and says, “Okay. Rontrell ate Cheerios but William did NOT eat Cheerios. Right?”
Teacher picks a confident student and asks him, “Rontrell ate Cheerios…and…who else? Aidan ate Cheerios? Rachel ate Cheerios? Who? Who else ate Cheerios?” Teacher uses the Two-Hand Method to help the confident student answer, “Rontrell ate Cheerios and Isabella ate Cheerios.”
Teacher thanks the student for the correct contribution and makes the necessary changes to what’s written on the board.
Teacher continues the activity in this fashion until there is a complete and correct list of student names on the board next to the correct cereal variety that they ate.
REFLECT: What did the students experience during this activity?
- Students repeatedly heard, read and said different forms of the past tense verb for “to eat”.
- Students used the interpersonal mode to help Teacher compile relevant information.
- The teacher stayed in the target language.
- The students realized that they could not only survive in an L2-immersion environment but that it can be fun.
- The students reviewed present tense and future tense forms of the verb “to eat”.
Have you tried out any of these grammar teaching suggestions from Tuesday’s Tips for Staying in the Target Language? How did it go? Leave comments below.
Stay tuned to over the next weeks for more blog posts on teaching grammar while staying in the target language.
Your voice is valuable! Share your target language teaching experiences!
Part 5 – Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Teaching Past Tense of “To Eat”