Do you know how to enhance communication and language skills?
Case study - Expressive Language - Use of Right Tense - Irregular Verbs.

By Beata Bednarska

One job, when we support children in the school, is to teach and enhance their communication and language. To communicate with others we must master many different skills. As a result, to help a child to communicate, we have to understand the whole communication chain.

If you are new to the concept of communication chain you can check what’s that below. This  diagram will help you to differentiate and adapt for individual child needs. 

Today I will focus on expressive language (use of irregular verbs). It’s a common problem and when we ask children to retell the story very often  they use infinitive verb to describe the past. 

Learning grammatical rules could be boring so to enhance our children communication we must be creative in the way we teach these skills. My favourite way of teaching, and it’s extremely effective with SEND children,  is through the multi-sensory learning. 

When I support child’s communication, language, social skills, academic or behaviour I always think about two the most important things:

  1. The Communication Chain (so I can deduct what kind of support is needed)
  2. Twelve Eclectic Ways of  Learning To Empower Pupils (how I can organise the learning process so children will be engaged and will use their all senses)

“Of all of our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language”- Walt Disney

Supporting children (especially if we have ambition to meet their needs and target their deficit skills – it’s an ART). This is extremely creative process that demands from the supporter to be highly skilled, observant and proactive. 

Driven by the curiosity and passion, after unpicking what skills I have to target, I can focus on planning and then the best bit – TEACHING. 😁

Teaching – The Time, that I put together all my knowledge and skills to the action. The time, that I can spend with this one child or group of children and make the impact on their lives. The time, when I teach and they learn through the play or activities that I created🥰

It’s So Freaking Rewording when they enjoy working with you and give you the best feedback. For me – it’s like winning the lottery each time.💷💷💷

I love when children are engaged and can get through the activity because it is differentiated and adapted to their needs. Also, I like to include at least one element that will be challenging for them.

How do I know if I did the good job? Simple! Children will tell me! Each time when I did the exceptional teaching or therapeutic activity I will hear: Can we play again Miss? That was so good Miss I wish we can stay and play more! Can I join your group Miss?

Or when I see my intervention children voluntarily repeating the activity or game that I showed them earlier.

It’s mind blowing!!! 🤯

I thought that I will show you one activity that not only helped children to master the use of irregular verbs but also built special relationship, respect and trust between me and kids 🙂

Today, I would like to focus on expressive language (use of right tense), the necessary skill that helps children for example to: re-tell the story, describe the event or process and enhance their verbal communication and writing skills.

☝️First, I identified one aspect of children A,B and C. expressive language that I would like to develop. I noticed that each time when children were re-telling the story or activity they were using the present tense verb instead of the past tense verb.

✌️Second, I planned what, when and how.👇

To make the activity interactive and excited, I planned to work in a small group of three children (Year 1).

I focused on aspect of syntax: use of irregular past verbs (Level 1).

Maybe it’s only me but I think it is really difficult to teach grammar in a fun and engaging way. 

I decided on what verbs I wanted to focus on and I’ve chosen some common irregular verbs: read, blow, bring, sing, draw, build, write, drive, sit, get, stand, swing, fly, go, think, eat, sleep, cut,  teach, drink, speak, be, run, have, swim.

I tried to choose the one which are useful and meaningful for my children in Year 1.

I’ve chosen to play the irregular verbs board game.

The reasons that I’ve chosen that way of teaching are:

  • I can create the game that contain pictures (visual representation)
  • I can add the word (text)
  • I can organise and add few different rules to make the game engaging
  • I can design the game in a way that is using multi-sensory learning
  • children love learning through the play
  • children can act the verbs with use of objects that I will gather before the lesson
  • I could easily prompt or model if necessary
  • it’s  structured and social,

My role was: to prepare the game, explain that some verbs behave differently, give examples, model how to play the game, give them plenty of opportunities to hear the irregular verb form in my own speech and model their sentences.

The way we played the game:

  • Rolled the dice and move along the board game the number of places showed on the dice
  • Read the present tense verb and act on it (for example: build – I supplied the with bricks and they built simple tower; blow – I gave them the bubbles and they blew some)
  • Gave me the sentence on what they did (I prompted or modelled children answers)

Children were extremely excited and engaged during the game. They had plenty of opportunities to:

  • hear the correct use of irregular past verb;
  • say the correct irregular past verb;
  • memorise them

After the game I asked children for the feedback and this is what I got:

📌Me: What do you think about this game?

Child A: I love it.💓

Child B: Can we play again?💗

Child C: I really, really, really enjoyed it.💞

As I targeted some early irregular verbs, children had a lot of opportunities to practice them in the real-life situations at school and at home.

Supporting expressive language takes time and mastering use of irregular verbs it’s very difficult, so I planned more interventions to support children and prepared more resources 🙂

My plan for 5  weeks:👇

  • play the game at least two more times over the two weeks
  • pass the game to teaching staff (ask children to teach whole class and play once)
  • pass the game to parents of targeted child (ask children to teach parents and play once)
  • re-assess how many verbs they use appropriately in week 3 of the intervention
  • remove all mastered verbs and create new board game with new verbs (plus the one that needed more practice, etc.)

Remember that children would be board of playing the same game so you will have to plan new activities such as:

  • role play (for example: restaurant – ate, drank; shopping – bought) what’s missing game (took) playing musical instruments (shook; blew) holiday diary (I went …. I swam….. I had……)
  • sorting present and past irregular verbs (really good for the individual workstation)
  • matching present and past verbs (workstation, early work)

After 3 weeks of practising, children will be able to use correctly between 27-40 targeted verbs. 👏 

I love working in small groups and observe children’s progress. It is so fascinating and rewording when you target one area of child’s development and you can see improvements in other areas as well. 💞💓💗

If you would like to use this activity with your children please feel free to download FUN-sheets here.

PS: I would really appreciate your comments 🙂 What approach do you use to teach irregular verbs? Do you use the communication chain or multi-sensory teaching?

With love 💕


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