I enjoy teaching and tutoring kids in the Language Arts because it is never boring. My young friends are quirky, imaginative people who work hard to make sense of the writing- and speaking-world around them. Many come from homes where a language other than English is spoken. When they apply the rules of their first language to the English language, the results are not always spot on. Their conclusions about English give me pause and make me look at English from a new perspective.
Currently, we are working on verbs. Some of the kids get it right away. Others sort of grope their way along. If there is a group that has been taught to be a team – step one in any groups I teach – it’s less uncomfortable for the one who doesn’t quite get it than it would otherwise be. Also, working in a group gives everyone a chance to follow or lead as they wish.
So this week the kids had sticky notes with verbs in the infinitive, the present, and the past. Their task was to hang the sticky on the appropriate wall. It was more difficult for many of them than I expected. For one thing, sometimes we use “helping” verbs with verbs to indicate tense and sometimes we don’t. For another, many of the kids are used to using one form of the verb for everything.
To help this along, we made a chart of all the words we could think of that showed something was happening in the present. We came up with now as the best word to use to see if the verb is in the present. We came up with yesterday as the best word to use to see if the verb is in the past.
Next week we’ll go outside and play a game with running, jumping, kicking/catching a ball, and walking. We’ll use different tenses to describe what we’ve just done. We’ll introduce the future as well.
Our trick for today: If the prompt is, “I ride,” make a sentence in your head such as, “I ride my bike now.” If it says, “I rode,” make a sentence in your head that says, “I rode my bike yesterday.” Most of the kids can hear when the verb sounds “wrong,” even if they can’t supply the appropriate verb form without a sentence. Most of the kids can tell that they could use a helping verb in the present for many verbs, but we’ve agreed to focus on that later, although they are welcome to call that out when it’s their turn.