Tuesday, December 18, 2012

TESOL Teaching Tip #42 - Conjugating Verbs is Important!

As a teacher at an International School, many of my students are English Language Learners. Even my native English speakers are living in a non-English speaking country. Due to my unique teaching position, I have had some readers ask for tips on teaching English Language Learners. Here is this week’s Tuesday TESOL Teaching Tip:

TESOL Teaching Tip #42 - Teach verb conjugations. Verb conjugations are very important in other languages, so students who are transfering from a conjugation heavy language to English need to know how English verbs conjugate as well. Stop by this blog post at Raki's Rad Resources to find strategies and download a freebie that will help you teach verb conjugations to your esl or ell students.

ELL Teaching Tip #42: Teach Verb Conjugations

My oldest son is going to school in French and Arabic, and he spends long hours memorizing verb conjugations.  (And I do mean long hours, in and out of class, in third grade!)  While this seems excessive to us (or at least to me), it is done because verb conjugations in both of these languages are complex and difficult and are required for students to be able to speak and write correctly in these languages.  In English, we tend to gloss over verb conjugations because there is so little to them.  However, our language learners often have a hard time with verbs for two reasons:

1.)  In their heads, they have 5 or 6 different words for a verb and so they expect there to be 5 or 6 different words in English to correspond to the words they have, even when there is just one.

2.)  Different languages conjugate verbs differently for male and female and place a male or female tag onto inanimate objects.  Many English Language Learners then expect this to carry over to English and can’t figure out why the eraser isn’t a “she” and why the verb for “falls” doesn’t change because of this fact.

Now, I don’t suggest spending hours memorizing English verb conjugations, but I do spend time conjugating English verbs so that they can see the similarities and the differences.  I also point out the similarities and differences that I know and encourage my studentsThis free verb conjugation sheet allows English Language Learners to compare verb conjugations from their home language to verb conjugations in English. to find as many similarities and differences as they can, so that they will cement in their minds.  My students show those differences by filling out on a sheet that shows 1.)  the connection between the past, present and future  tenses and 2.) allows them to compare the conjugations of these verbs in their home language and in English.  You can download this sheet free from Google Docs if you would like to use it with your class.
How do you work on verb conjugations with your English Language Learners?

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Find more TESOL Teaching Tips here, and come back every Tuesday for a new tip!