Verb Charts for Elementary Students

by Ghi Dean

I spent three years teaching core French at the elementary level. I taught classes in grades 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8.

One grade five story influenced me forever.

Over three weeks we had been doing all the things the "program" asked, in order to learn the vocabulary and the "interesting little patterns" that grammar seemed to be to the author of the program. It was now time to write a short paragraph about what we had learned. I repeated all the instructions and let the class write. When I collected the treasures and tried to mark them, I could have used an 11.5 inch roller of red paint to cover all the errors.

But of course, I was only to mark certain things wrong, so that is what I did.

The second time we did a paragraph, little Susie came to me and asked: "How come this is right on the first paragraph, but wrong on the second paragraph?" When I explained that it was wrong both times, she was devastated. She thought she had been doing everything (not marked in red) right, and was working on that basis. Her next paragraph might have been better, had I not "misled" her.

The kids think that if it is not marked with a red line, it is right!

I was determined never to do that to a kid again!

  • I made up assignments based on a grammatical subject, rather than a conventional topic. For example "nous" could be a subject. In that case all verbs would end in "-ons" or "-issons!" I gave the kids other versions of "nous" that they could use, such as "mon ami et moi" or "Ma mère et moi." They still require the same verb ending. Then I told them to look in their French books and use only the words they knew or could find there to write five sentences. They showed me their rough drafts, and I helped to point out errors and directed them on how to get it right. The last step was to write the paragraph on fancy decorated paper. Almost everybody got 10/10 and truly deserved it. The paragraphs were a joy to read and very creative.

    Creativity making do with what you know and have at hand, not trying to express yourself with anything you can think of in your own language.

  • I made up verb charts about the present tense, and started to have them write out one or two a day. Eventually I added negatives and interogatives. Grammar would be taught as real patterns, not "incidentals!"
  • I made up noun charts which show the singular and plural versions of vocabulary with the definite and indefinite articles and their English meanings.

It is very important to show elementary kids the patterns and rules for regular verbs and nouns. They must get used to paying attention to grammar and learn how to learn grammar. Without solidification of this knowledge they live in a fog and are never sure whether they know something or not.

I may have a different definition of creativity than some people. To me creativity means doing what you can with the materials at hand. This is why I encourage students to go back into past lessons of their own text to seek vocabulary for their paragraphs. If it isn't there and they don't know it from previous years, they can't use it.

Although dictionary skills are important, a lot of kids have no idea how much trouble (irregular verbs, multiple definitions) a foreign language dictionary can give at this level.

  • kids try to find the word "would" and write "cond" instead of the conditional tense of the verb.
  • check out the number of meanings for the word "nut" (botanical, biological, technical, psychological) and imagine the trouble a kid who only reads the first meaning in French can get into...

Verbs - like anything else - are easy if you know the rules!

If you are interested in seeing more of my illustrated elementary materials, click on Tralco Educational Services

The elementary verb charts now include

  • Elementary verb charts (learning level) for each of the présent, passé composé, imparfait and futur. They include instructions for forming the tenses and space to write out one verb.
  • Elementary combined verb charts (with all four above-mentioned tenses)
  • Elementary advanced verb charts - useful in grade nine applied core French as well - (présent, passé composé, imparfait,futur, impératif, futur proche: in the afirmative, negative and interogative - 66 pages in all)

Cost: $25.00 Canadian for the package.

If you wish to download a sample verb chart, click here: sample