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How to Teach Past Tense Verbs in Speech Therapy (With Examples)

Children experiencing language delays often struggle with applying the correct past tense to verbs when discussing events that have already occurred, which makes teaching past tense verbs in speech therapy an important focus. Instead of using the appropriate past tense form, children might default to the present tense or incorrectly form the past tense, whether it’s regular/simple or irregular. This issue can lead to confusion, making it challenging to discern whether the child is referring to past events or expressing desires to engage in activities in the present. Keep reading How to Teach Past Tense Verbs.

As speech-language pathologists, finding evidence-based, impactful strategies for imparting essential language skills to our students is a constant goal. A key focus area is the teaching of regular past tense -ed verbs, a topic that necessitates targeted and compelling instructional methods and this is something that this resource will provide.

What are the guidelines for applying the -ed suffix to denote past tense?

The guideline for forming the past tense of regular verbs involves appending “-ed” to the base form of the verb to signify an action that has occurred in the past. Typically, verbs like “walk” transform into “walked,” and “play” becomes “played” by simply adding “-ed.”

Yet, there are exceptions to this rule: verbs ending in “e” merely adopt a “-d,” verbs that are one-syllable with a single vowel preceding a single consonant double this consonant before adding “-ed,” and verbs terminating in “-y” preceded by a consonant switch the “-y” to “-i” before the addition of “-ed.” Verbs that fall outside these patterns are often irregular.

Familiarizing students with these rules is crucial for accurately constructing past tense verbs, enhancing their linguistic capabilities.

Here’s a list of the most common regular and irregular verbs with their past tense:

Present TensePast Tense
Regular Verbs
WalkWalked
PlayPlayed
JumpJumped
HelpHelped
CallCalled
TalkTalked
CleaCleaned
CookCooked
WashWashed
WorkWorked
Irregular Verbs
GoWent
EatAte
SeeSaw
TakeTook
ComeCame
RunRan
DrinkDrank
FlyFlew
BreakBroke
DriveDrove

Note: This list features a mix of verbs frequently used in everyday communication, showcasing the simple past tense forms for both regular and irregular verbs that can be used in teaching past tense verbs in speech therapy. Regular verbs follow a pattern, typically adding “-ed” to the base form, while irregular verbs do not follow this pattern and must be memorized due to their unique changes.

How to Teach Past Tense Verbs in Speech Therapy

Mastering past tense verbs in speech therapy is key to advancing a child’s storytelling abilities and verbal communication about past events. This guide provides a detailed approach to teaching past tense verbs, enabling young learners to articulate their experiences with greater clarity and assurance.

Need more practice? View these past tense verb worksheets

Select Between Regular (Simple Past) and Irregular Past Tense Verbs for Discussion

When instructing grammatical markers, it’s crucial to concentrate on one concept at a time. Initially, you must determine if the focus should be on teaching regular past tense verbs (simple past) or irregular past tense verbs. Choosing one category is essential to avoid overwhelming or confusing the learner. Begin by targeting regular past tense verbs; once the child demonstrates proficiency, you can transition to teaching the irregular variants.

Utilizing Before-and-After Images for Past Tense Instruction

One of the most straightforward methods to teach past tense verbs involves using pictures that depict the same scene before and after a change.

After selecting between present and past tense and gathering your images, it’s time to focus on teaching past tense verbs for actions that occurred recently (rather than those that happened some time ago). Explain what is occurring by showing the child one of your “before” pictures.

Next, present the “after” picture and ask, “What happened?” The child should be able to identify the action that took place, even if they’re unfamiliar with using the past tense. If the child struggles to identify the action, consider revisiting action labeling before introducing past tense forms.

Demonstrate the correct past tense of the verb the child mentions, explaining that the verb form needs to change because the action is complete. Here’s an example of how this conversation might unfold:

  • You: “Look, he’s riding a bike!” (Show the “after” picture) “Oh no! What happened?”
  • Child: “Fall down!”
  • You: “Yes, he fell. Since it happened already, we change ‘fall’ to ‘fell’. Listen, he fell.”
  • Child: “He fell.”

Continue with this exercise until the child consistently uses the past tense to describe the depicted actions.

Teach Past Tense Verbs for Recounting Previous Events

After the child has grasped the fundamentals of converting verbs into the past tense, the next step is to practice using the past tense to narrate events that occurred some time ago. Encourage the child to describe events such as playtime at recess, birthday celebrations, trips, or any part of their day that happened earlier.

As they share their stories, ensure they apply the past tense. If the child slips up, gently remind them, using similar prompts as before, by emphasizing that these events have already occurred, necessitating a verb tense change. Continue this practice until the child can effortlessly recount previous experiences using the correct past tense forms.

Incorporating Past Tense Verbs into Everyday Conversation

With the child now capable of employing the past tense in describing images and reminiscing about past occurrences, the final step is mastering its use in daily dialogue. Whenever you notice an incorrect usage of the past tense in the child’s conversations, gently guide them using the same supportive techniques applied in previous steps. Over time, the child will naturally adapt to using the past tense correctly in conversations, eventually no longer requiring prompts or corrections.

Conclusion on How to Teach Past Tense Verbs in Speech Therapy

Thank you for reading this resource on How to Teach Past Tense Verbs. Teaching past tense verbs in speech therapy is a progressive journey that begins with understanding the concept through images, advances to recounting past experiences, and culminates in seamless integration into everyday conversations. Throughout this process, consistent practice, gentle correction, and positive reinforcement play crucial roles in helping the child internalize the correct usage of past tense verbs.

As children become more adept at applying these rules in various contexts, they gain confidence in their speech abilities, leading to significant improvements in their linguistic skills. Ultimately, the goal is for the child to use past tense verbs accurately and effortlessly, enhancing their overall communication proficiency.

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SLP Team
Author: SLP Team

Our Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) team is a dedicated group of professionals committed to sharing industry expertise to help you grow your practice and improve how you treat your patients.

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