Are Your Students Struggling With Irregular Verbs? Try Plastic Eggs (And 5 Other Simple Manipulatives!)

Are Your Students Struggling With Irregular Verbs? Try Plastic Eggs (And 5 Other Simple Manipulatives!)

Susan Verner
by Susan Verner 26,063 views

The first step in learning a language, and English is no exception, is getting to know the rules and patterns that it follows. Once a person has that down, it’s time to learn all the expectations to those rules, and English has plenty of exceptions to keep ESL students busy.

Here are some simple classroom manipulatives you can use to get your students’ hands moving and their minds working as they review and remember irregular verbs.

Try These Almost Instant Hands On Activities For Reinforcing Irregular Verbs

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    Fold Overs

    Fold overs are a simple manipulative that, in their most basic form, require nothing more than a piece of paper. You can use any copy paper, though I prefer to make mine from cardstock so they hold up a little better. To make them, fold the paper in half vertically and cut it into strips big enough for you to write on. (You can either cut through both layers to make individual fold overs or cut through the top layer of paper only if you want a set of verbs on the same page.) On the top flap, write one form of your irregular verb (present tense). Under the flap, write its irregular past form or its past participle. To use the fold over, students simply read the word on top, decide what its irregular past or past participle is, and then lift the flap to check their answer.

  2. 2

    Plastic Eggs

    Once spring rolls around, you might want to stock up on plastic eggs from the dollar store. You can use these simple manipulatives for lots of activities in your ESL classroom. When reviewing irregular verbs, I like to write one part of the irregular verb on one half of an egg and the other part on the other piece of the egg. (Note: switch up your colors so the correct matches aren’t the same color pieces.) I might include verbs such as the following: bit-ten, be-en, chose-n, dream-t, forbid-den, froze-n, hit-(blank), fit-ted, etc. I put all the pieces in a basket and let students work with them, matching the pieces together to make correctly spelled irregular verbs. I also include an answer sheet at the bottom of the basket so they can check to see if their answers are correct.

  3. 3

    Milk Caps

    Have you realized how useful recycled milk caps can be in your ESL classroom? Once someone pointed it out to me, I started saving caps from milk and juice jugs to use as simple (and free) manipulatives in my English classes. To use them as an irregular verb review, you can write the first form of the verb on one side of the cap and the second (or third) form on the other side of the cap. Students pull a cap from a bag, read one side, and then give the word which appears on the reverse side. You could also do half a verb on each cap (like you did with the plastic eggs) and have students match each cap to its correct partner. Either way, have an answer sheet handy so students can check their answers.

  4. 4

    Paint Sample Strips

    The next time you go to your local hardware store, pick up some free paint sample strips, preferably ones with at least three different colors on the same piece of paper. And grab two of each strip while you are at it. On one set of strips, write the three different forms of each irregular verb you want your students to review – one form on each space. Then, tape or glue an identical sample on top of that one. Write only one form of the irregular verb on this strip. To use the strips, students read the one verb form on the top strip and decide what the missing verb forms should be. They can then lift the strip to check their answers and see if they were right.

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    Interlocking Building Blocks

    Otherwise known as Legos, building blocks are great manipulatives for the ESL classroom. I like to use the larger ones designed for toddlers, but any size will work. You can use them in many different ways, and every kid likes playing with toys in school. To use them as an irregular verb review, write one form of each irregular verb on an individual block. (If you print your verbs on labels rather than writing them directly on the blocks, you can reuse the same blocks for other activities later.) On other labels, write out a sentence using one of these verb forms, attaching the first part of the sentence on one block and the second part of the sentence on another block, leaving the verb out. Students who use the blocks will have to arrange them on a building base to make logical and grammatical sentences, choosing the correct verb form to complete each sentence. They can stack their sentences on top of each other if they like, just so they can read each complete sentence across the stacks. They might not use every form of each verb, so they will have to choose the correct one to complete the sentence. As always, have an answer key handy so your students can check their answers when they are finished.

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    I love using blank dice in my English classes. White board dice are great when you use dice for lots of different activities. But you can also use blank dice with simple stickers or make your own folded boxes for each different activity you do. To use dice to reinforce irregular verbs, choose six verbs for your set of three dice. On one die, write the present form of each verb. On the second die, write the past form of each verb. And on the third die, write the past participle of each verb. Students get three rolls each turn to try and make a complete set of verb forms for a given verb. On the first turn, they should roll all three dice. Students then choose one of the verbs showing and use their two remaining rolls to make a complete set of verb forms. (For example, if a student rolls eat on the first turn, they will try to roll ate and eaten on their remaining turns.) If they do, they score two points. If they do not roll the correct forms but can name the words they are looking for at the end of their turn, they score one point. Play six rounds and see who has the most points at the end of the game.

Once you use these easy manipulatives to reinforce irregular verbs, you will see just how helpful they can be.

You might even want to modify some or all of them to help your students remember other parts of the English language that don’t quite follow the rules: plurals, comparative adjectives, idioms – anything your students need some hands on practice with. If you do, let us know how it goes by leaving a comment below.

What other manipulatives do you find most useful in your ESL class?

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