Although it may be cute when a child says he "runned" on the playground, students need to know how to use past tense in order to speak and write correctly. You can hang posters in your classroom that list the past tense of popular verbs, but children need to practice using the past tense in order to master it. Make your lessons relevant to your students through storytelling and teaching the tenses of commonly used words like "play," "run" and "go."
Ask your students to create a story in three parts: past, present and future. Have them write a fiction story that starts off in the past and have them write the entire section in past tense. The next section should be about the characters in future tense and the last section in the future. This exercise will help them think about using tenses and develop their storytelling and writing skills. Ask them to read the story aloud when it's done, either at home or with a partner. They may be able to hear any tense mistakes they made when they read it out loud and correct them.
Tense Scavenger Hunt
Give each student a copy of a magazine or a short story. Ask them to look for examples of the past tense. Have them highlight the words. If you're working on learning to write, have them write out a list of all the past-tense words instead. For older children, have them practice writing the words in cursive. Pair up children and ask them to compare their lists. Make a master list with help from the whole class to make sure no one missed any words.
Verb Of The Day
Start off each day by telling children about the "verb of the day." Choose a verb and write it on the board along with the past and future tenses. Explain the definition of the word and use it in a sentence. Have children practice writing it. Throughout the day, use the word in conversation and encourage children to do the same. Give a child a sticker each time you hear him use the past tense of the word correctly. This activity teaches children about the tenses as well as new vocabulary words.
Write out a sheet of sentences that include present tense verbs. Use a student's name in each sentence so there is one sentence for each child. For instance, "Mark picks up the hamster that sits on the floor." Hand out the worksheets and ask the children to find the present tense verbs and change them to past tense. For a beginning exercise, bold the verbs so children can find them easily. Your students may get a kick out of seeing their names in print, and this exercise also shows them how relevant past tense is to their lives.