Activity Time: Understanding Verb Tenses

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Did you know that a verb can tell time?  It’s true!  Within every verb is a little piece of information called tense. The tense of the verb tells you when the action of the verb takes place. Mastering the use of correct verb tense is a critical skill that allows a speaker or writer to purposefully convey “time.” 

Do some of your students struggle to understand the difference between simple present, past, and future tense verbs?  If so, Shurley English has an activity that just might help them comprehend verb tense with more clarity!  Follow along, and I’ll show you how it’s done!

1. Give students a paragraph that is written in present tense:

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2. Have students identify all the verbs in the paragraph by highlighting or underlining them:

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3. Next, ask students to write the verbs in order on a separate sheet of paper and verify that they are written in present-tense:

Verbs 1 with SHurley English.png

4. During the next step, ask students to change the present-tense verbs to past-tense.  

Tip:  If you want to change a present-tense paragraph to a past-tense paragraph, you must change each verb to past-tense, one at a time.  Example:

Verbs 2 with Shurley English.png

5. Finally, have students rewrite the original paragraph, inserting the past tense verbs in place of the present tense verbs:

Past Tense Verbs with Shurley English.png

This activity purposely focuses students’ attention on the tense of each verb in the passage.  It teaches students to use consistent tense to show actions that occur at the same time.  If they want to change a present-tense paragraph to a past-tense paragraph, students learn that all they have to do is change each verb to past tense, one at a time!   

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Cindy Goeden

Cindy Goeden has enjoyed being involved with Shurley English for the last sixteen of her twenty-six years in the field of education.  Working with various levels of students in elementary, junior, and high schools, in both the private and public arenas, Cindy surely is thankful for the providential day that she was introduced to Shurley English, which changed forever her approach to Language Arts instruction. That has led to her current job of having the joy of sharing about Shurley with other educators.  Her love of learning has prodded her to earn over two hundred and twenty hours, which includes two bachelor degrees in education.


Cindy currently lives with her husband, Donald, in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she enjoys puttering in her flowers, changing up her décor with the seasons, and occasionally getting out and traveling with Donald to either explore a new beach or view historic sights and gardens.