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Steps to Success » Grammar

Making Tenses Fun!

I teach grammar to students of all ages, and the one thing uniting them when they first start classes is a hatred of learning tenses. Students see tenses as a monster that’s both scary and boring! In school, they’re often taught long strings of rules, which they practise with repetitive exercises. As a grammar teacher, I personally enjoy teaching tenses a lot. The rules are quite straightforward, and there are plenty of games to make tenses more fun. Try some of these ideas at home to improve your child’s experiences of learning this key grammar tool.

For starters, learning tenses doesn’t have to begin with the rules and verb tables. You can increase your child’s awareness of tenses by having them read a simple sentence from a book and tell you WHEN the action happened (e.g. past, present or future). As your child advances, challenge them to find a verb of a particular tense on a page in their book. If they’re competitive, challenge them to find ten past tense verbs in their book while you look in yours. You can change the game to match any tense they’re learning in school.

Even memorising verb tables can be fun with games, and these are always a hit with my students. Simply cut out the base, past tense and past participle forms of verbs and have your child match the ones sharing the same base form. You can also give your child all the base forms and make them search for the past tenses counterparts that you’ve hidden around your home.

Create a fun atmosphere around learning tenses by making purposeful mistakes in your sentences as part of a game. Kids love nothing more than correcting grownups, and they’ll enjoy getting a point for identifying your mistake and another for correcting it. This is a great game to play while travelling, waiting for the lift, or getting ready for school.

One thing to note when helping your child with tenses is to keep your corrections friendly but clear. First-language speakers make frequent grammar mistakes when they’re young, and these are part of the learning process. When kids are afraid of making mistakes, they don’t speak enough to improve, and they see tenses as a monster to hide from. Keep corrections light-hearted whenever possible. If my students make a mistake often and I want to bring attention to it, I’ll do so in a fun way: ‘Oh, you CRY every day when you were a baby? Do you still cry every day now? No, you don’t. You CRIED everyday when you were a child.’ Students should be encouraged to pay attention to their mistakes and learn from them, but not to fear making them as they learn.