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Teaching irregular verbs

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Teaching irregular verbs

Unread postby awyckoff » Wed Mar 28, 2007 12:13 am

I am a fairly new student teacher assigned to teach a list of 32 new irregular verbs a week. I am drilling the kids w/spelling and pronunciation. i also had them translate the verbs into their own language. how do I ensure that they acquire meaning for these verbs? Please help! :D
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Unread postby Kevin Vosper » Wed Mar 28, 2007 5:34 am

Dear awyckoff

I don't know much about your students such as level or age but my first reaction is that trying to teach thirty two verbs a week, especially irregular verbs, is asking a lot from your students. I suspect that in order to teach such a large number you might be concentrating too much on the presentation of new vocabulary rather than use. Rembember that language is about communication and "knowing" a lot of vocabulary is not the same as the ability to use the word. Many students with a very large vocabulary are unable to use that vocabulary to achieve even a simple task.

To give an example, New Headway Elementary (Liz and John Soars, 2005) lists sixty three irregular verbs for a course lasting over six months which I would suggest is a more realistic figure for most students. Howvever, I am aware that in many teaching situations "knowing" words is somehow regarded as the same as an ability to use the language, even if the student is unable to buy a pint of milk from the local shop.

My advice is to concentrate on far fewer vocabulary items but back up those you do teach with much more practice in realistic situations such as role-play. It is important to realise that learning should be done at the pace of the student not anyone else. I am not trying to say that learning vocabulary is unimportant in language learning but that it is the use of vocabuary which matters not just "knowing" lots of words.

Hope this helps

Kevin Vosper
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irregular verb question

Unread postby awyckoff » Thu Mar 29, 2007 1:12 am


Thank you so much for your reply. I will try to concentrate on role-playing and miming with them. They are also unmotivated since I'm just a student teacher.
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teaching methodology...

Unread postby eric_p_m » Thu Mar 29, 2007 3:57 am

Dear Awyckoff,

I think that the context you find yourself in right now could be improved through utilizing a teaching methodology known as Total Physical Response: TPR.


I tend to encourage emotional responses from my students while foregrounding TPR exercises. I find that this approach solves multiple problems at once and facilitates the transition of lexical terms from short-term to long-term memory.

As far as motivation goes, earn their respect by teaching them something that they didn't already know and let them know that you care for them as individuals: utilize interactive games and trick them into learning. 8)

Furthermore, the speed of lexical development, and all other linguistic skills in general, you should teach at should be ( n + 1 ) , where "n" is the level of the foreign language learners.


Eric Paul Monroe

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Unread postby awyckoff » Thu Mar 29, 2007 10:26 pm


Thank you for your reply. My cooperating teacher is telling me to use TPR, as well. After visiting the website that you sent me, I realized what my problem is. In my methodology class, our book alloted about 12 pages to TPR. I have read the chapter about 5 times and am really not "trained" in TPR, per se. I will have to get some of the books and read them over the summer so that I will really be able to teach ESL to Level I students.
thank you again!
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Unread postby Heads Up Eng » Thu Apr 19, 2007 4:35 am

I agree with the sentiment: That is a lot of verbs to cover. I suspect that much of your classes would have been dominated by drilling and writing exercises, but not real application of the material.

I completely agree with Eric on TPR. It's a good tool to reinforce language. You might also try using the words you're teaching in pre-written dialogues, along with gestures and emotions (which you've written as cues). This adds realism and context to the vocabulary, making it much more memorable.

A couple of weeks ago I went to a presentation on role-plays. The presenter does a lot of role-plays in his classes, filming final projects of skits written by his students. You could also try this approach, perhaps as a term project. It would give the students a great chance to use the words they've learned, incorporate some other ideas and vocabulary, and basically be a lot of fun.

Good luck!

Chris Cotter
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Unread postby alerus12 » Fri Apr 27, 2007 3:42 am

Have you considered music... It is not necessary to have a specific song, but the wonderful thing about irregular verbs is that they have their own rythm and intonation. Make your studens create a song by chunks... do not do all the verbs at the same time. Try also with worksheets where you place the picture and the verb in the base form, then you ask them to write the other tenses... It is very effective.
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Unread postby jenn » Wed May 02, 2007 2:01 pm

music is really important for children and it is very effective because they can learn in a fun and easy way.
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Re: Teaching irregular verbs

Unread postby xecole » Sun Mar 09, 2008 10:47 pm

Something else which always works well is introducing the element of competition as in this activity at Irregular Verbs
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Re: Teaching irregular verbs

Unread postby Almadreams » Sun Oct 05, 2008 9:26 pm

Teaching English irregular verbs is indeed challenging. Not satisfied with what was available in text books and verb lists, we (father and son) set out over 15 years ago to publish a specialised dictionary of irregular verbs illustrating them with real quotations drawn from English language publications. We spent years searching for real quotations which would not just illustrate the use of the verb, but would also be interesting in themselves. Along the way we developed a new pronunciation guide for global English, and most of all, we discovered a fascinating world of English through irregular verbs!

The result, "Express Yourself Better in English - Dictionary of Irregular Verbs with Quotations" is of course a useful dictionary, but we think also a good browse. The book is designed to make the teaching of irregular verbs not just easier, but also entertaining, and it is aimed at learners of English with an advanced or intermediate level. You can see actual pages and find more information at http://www.almadreams.com. Any feedback and suggestions are most welcome!

There are other less thorough and comprehensive ideas about how to teach irregular verbs, but they are perfectly valid and complementary, and indeed we ourselves don't rely just on our Dictionary. Some of these ideas are listed below:

http://www.eslcafe.com/idea/index.cgi?d ... -29269.txt
http://www.eslcafe.com/idea/index.cgi?d ... -17442.txt
http://manyenglishes.blogspot.com/2007/ ... verbs.html
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