How Do You Teach Past Tense -Ed Words?
As speech-language pathologists, we are always on the lookout for evidence-based and effective methods to teach crucial language skills to our students. One area that often requires focused attention is teaching regular past tense -ed verbs. To ensure our students grasp this concept with ease, we need to use systematic and engaging strategies. In this blog post, we’ll explore a recent study that highlights a very effective intervention approach for regular past tense verbs. In addition, I have linked two of my favorite resources to work on past tense verbs with your students.
What is the Rule for Past Tense -Ed?
The rule for teaching past tense -ed is to add “-ed” to regular verbs to indicate past actions. Most regular verbs simply add “-ed” to their base form. For example, “walk” becomes “walked” and “play” becomes “played.” However, there are some exceptions: verbs ending in “e” just add “-d,” one-syllable verbs with a single vowel before a single consonant double the final consonant and then add “-ed,” and verbs ending in “-y” with a consonant before it change the “-y” to “-i” before adding “-ed.” These would be considered irregular verbs. Teaching these rules helps students form past tense verbs correctly and improves their language skills.
The Study on Teaching Past Tense Verbs to Students with Developmental Language Disorder
A study conducted by Calder et al. (2021) focused on 21 elementary students (ages 5-7) with developmental language disorder (DLD). The researchers wanted to see if using a specific teaching method could help these young learners get better at using past tense verbs.
Over a period of 10 weeks, the participants received 20-30 minute therapy sessions once a week. During these sessions, the SLPs used the systematic cueing system to target regular past tense -ed verbs. The systematic cueing involved four distinct steps designed to encourage active learning and reinforce the use of the past tense marker:
1. Request to Clarify:
Whenever a student produced a sentence that was unclear or lacked the correct past tense, the SLP would gently ask the student to clarify their statement. This prompt, such as “I didn’t hear you, try again,” encouraged the student to rephrase their utterance and incorporate the appropriate past tense -ed ending.
2. Emphatic Recasting:
Emphatic recasting is a technique where the SLP restates the student’s utterance in the form of a question, emphasizing the use of the past tense. For example, if a student said, “You pull the cart,” the SLP would respond with, “You pulled the cart, what did you do?” This provided the student with a clear model of the correct past tense form.
3. Forced Choice:
The forced choice step aimed to make students actively think about the correct use of the past tense marker. Students were presented with a choice between the base verb and the past tense form, encouraging them to analyze the sentence structure and select the appropriate option. For instance, the SLP might ask, “You pull the cart or pulled the cart? Try again,” prompting the student to consider which form was grammatically correct.
4. Elicited Imitation:
The elicited imitation step focused on reinforcement and practice. Students were prompted to repeat sentences with the correct past tense -ed ending, helping them internalize the target skill and increasing their likelihood of using it spontaneously in their communication. The SLP might say, “Say it just like me: We pulled the cart.”
The Results of this Study
The study’s findings were really encouraging! The way that they taught past tense -ed using the explicit intervention approach with systematic cueing worked much better than just recasting the sentences. This means that giving clear and structured cues, like they did with the systematic cueing system, can be a great way to help kids with developmental language disorder (DLD) improve their use of regular past tense verbs. It’s like a helpful tool that boosts their language skills and makes learning past tense verbs easier for them.
Teaching Past Tense Verbs is about Using the Right Strategy
Teaching regular past tense -ed verbs can be really rewarding when we use the right strategies and tools. The study by Calder and his team showed that a specific way of teaching, where we give clear and structured cues, worked really well in helping students with developmental language disorder get better at using past tense verbs. This means we can use this approach to make learning past tense verbs easier and more effective for our students!
My Favorite Past Tense Verb Practice Activities
This activity is a set of materials that guides students and clinicians through the process of learning a skills, practicing the skills, and then checking for understanding. This emphasizes the teaching portion of speech therapy, rather than the assessment portion that we sometimes over emphasize.
I have these cards and use them a lot more than the plain verb cards.
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What are your favorite ways to teach past tense verbs to students?
Calder et al. (2021) Calder, SD; Claessen, M; Ebbels, S; Leitão, S; (2021) The Efficacy of an Explicit Intervention Approach to Improve Past Tense Marking for Early School-Age Children With Developmental Language Disorder. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research , 64 (1) pp. 91-104.
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