Irregular verbs don't follow the typical verb conjugation pattern, such as leaving the verb intact while adding an "-ed" or "-ing" ending. In fact, these tricksters follow no pattern at all, making them difficult to teach. Learning to conjugate irregular verbs is a matter of memorization, but that doesn't mean teachers can creatively challenge students while they learn.
Rote memory activities present the opportunity to use kinesthetic, or movement-oriented, learning techniques. A particularly engaging game for teaching irregular verbs to middle and high school classes is Beach Ball Bash.
For this activity, students line up outside or in a large indoor space, shoulder to shoulder, facing the teacher, who throws the beach ball to the first student in the line while blurting out an infinitive form of an irregular verb, such as "to go." The student must say the simple present form of the verb, "go/goes," and throw the ball back; if he does not get the verb correct, he's out.
The teacher throws the ball to the next student, who must identify the simple past form ("went"), and on to the next student, who must say the past participle form ("has gone"). The last student standing is the winner. Modifications for English language learners and elementary-level classes include working with smaller groups of verbs.
A game of Memory serves as a quieter learning method for upper elementary through high school students in regular education or ELL classes. The game uses index cards labeled with either the present or past form of each irregular verb and placed face down. Two students take turns trying to find matches between two forms of the same verb. For each match found, the student writes down the full conjugation of the verb on a sheet of paper to turn in for a grade at the end of the game.
Websites such as DiscoveryEducation.com provide word searches and crosswords for educators to download and print out. With a little tweaking, an irregular verb word search can meet curriculum objectives for middle to high school English classes. The word bank should contain the infinitive form of the irregular verb -- for example, "to eat" -- with a tense listed beside it, such as "simple past." The student must find that specific tense of the verb, the word "ate," within the word search. In creating this puzzle, the teacher must input the words manually, and fix the master, before making copies for students, to include the infinitive verb forms and not the verbs themselves.
Cross-curriculum activities offer an innovative way for music and English classes to work together. Students could write songs or raps about the rules, or lack of them, for irregular verbs, with conjugation examples. Or, the music teacher could direct the choir in a rendition of a well-known song rewritten to replace the original words with conjugations of irregular verbs. Instead of "Mar-y had a lit-tle lamb," the words change to "to-eat, eats, ate, has eat-en." This idea works best for students in regular education classrooms in middle and high school, and requires teachers to collaborate on curriculum objectives.