Portuguese can be such a complicated language to learn. However, it is easier and more interesting to learn if a context is used to teach the most crucial grammar points. Let's take a look at a lesson plan on the city of Ouro Preto (Brazil) to explain the past tense.
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Learning About the Past
This is a great opportunity to teach the students about the past tense. There are different types of past tenses available in the Portuguese language with slight differences that characterize each one.
In this Ouro Preto lesson, the goal is to use the history of the city and important happenings to practice the conjugation of verbs in the perfect and imperfect past tenses. It is also important to shed some light on whether pick one or another tense to use. The history of the city of Ouro Preto, Brazil is strongly attached to the slavery and gold exploitation by Portugal. Ouro Preto was the main local where the gold rush took place in Brazil in the 18th century.
Also, it is important to talk a little bit about Tiradentes, who is considered a national hero. Tiradentes launched a movement in 1789 that aimed at proclaiming a Brazilian Republic in order to bring the exploitation by Portugal to an end. This movement begun in Ouro Preto and was called "Inconfidência Mineira."
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Past Perfect versus Past Imperfect (Verb to be – Verbo ser)
eu – fui
tu – foste
ele, ela – foi
nós – fomos
vós – fostes
eles, elas – foram
The past perfect reflects a certain action or happening that took place at a specific time period in the past. It can be used even if the time period is not explicitly expressed.
Tiradentes foi enforcado pelos colonizadores portugueses. Tiradentes was hung by Portuguese colonial rulers.
Tiradentes foi preso e seu julgamento durou quase três anos. Tiradentes was arrested and his trial lasted almost three years.
eu – era
tu – eras
ela, ele – era
nós – éramos
vós – éreis
eles, elas – eram
The imperfect past reflects a situation that took place at a time period in the past that is not determined. It can be used to express something that was true in the past for a certain interval of time.
Tiradentes era dentista. Tiradentes was a dentist.
You can also talk about the nice places to visit in the city that are able to tell part of the history for themselves.
Places to visit (Lugares para visitar):
Museu (Museum) da Inconfidência: O lugar foi usado como Prefeitura e cadeia da cidade de 1785 a 1855. The place was used as the city hall and jail from 1785 to 1855.
As minas de ouro (The gold mines): Os escravos faziam o trabalho árduo nas minas de ouro. Slaves did the hard work in the gold mines.
In the last sentence (about the work performed by the slaves), a new verb was introduced: the verb "to do." The conjugation of this verb can be then studied along with some examples.
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Past Perfect versus Past Imperfect (Verb to do/to make – Verbo fazer)
eu – fiz
tu – fizeste
ele, ela – fez
nós – fizemos
vós – fizestes
eles, elas – fizeram
Os escravos fizeram de Palmares uma terra livre. The slaves made Palmares a free land.
eu – fazia
tu – fazias
ele, ela – fazia
nós – fazíamos
vós – fazíeis
eles, elas – faziam
O que os portugueses faziam com os escravos fugitivos? What did the Portugueses do with the runaway slaves?
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Homework (Dever de Casa)
After your Ouro Preto Portuguese lesson is done, ask the students to create five sentences related to the history of Ouro Preto using verbs in the past tense. Ask them to conjugate the verbs in the perfect and imperfect past tenses.
Os escravos trabalhavam muito nas minas de ouro. The slaves worked hard in the gold mines.
Tiradentes morreu em 1792. Tiradentes died in 1792.