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Make Conjugation Drills a Blast with Synoptics

written by: Eric W. Vogt • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 1/4/2012

Synoptic conjugation? Verb drills, fun?! They can be. If your students need fresh and exciting ways to practice verbs, follow this lesson plan and you will have a lot more fun in class.

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    Can Conjugation Be Fun?

    Who likes to march in the mud and rain? Students – and I’ll bet most teachers too – hate to do drills. Nothing is more boring that churning through the conjugation of a verb, rolling its forms through your mind and maybe your students’ like a rusty Rolodex. Students who expect to become orally proficient must do a lot of mental gymnastics and break free from having to go from the yo form to whatever form they need.

    This lesson plan is about two activities that can add zip and randomness to the process. The first activity is called a synoptic conjugation. A synoptic conjugation is simply a conjugation of a verb in a series of select tenses and moods, but for only one subject pronoun. For students who have only learned the present tense, a synoptic conjugation will consist of the conjugation of a number of verbs for one subject.

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    Drill Verb Tenses

    The selection and order of the tenses is up to you, and of course depends on what level you’re teaching. But synoptic approaches to verb drills provide an element of unpredictability along with speed. Here is an example of a synoptic conjugation of the verb hablar in the form, in all tenses and moods:

    • hablas

    • hablabas

    • hablaste

    • hablarás

    • hablarías

    • has hablado

    • habías hablado

    • hubiste hablado

    • habrás hablado

    • habrías hablado

    • hables

    • hayas hablado

    • hablaras

    • hubieras hablado

    You could also add command forms or progressives, passive voice constructions, etc.

    In addition to being able to come up with say the forms quickly, you can have your students give the English meaning of each form immediately after saying the Spanish (e.g., hablas: you speak; hablabas: you were speaking, etc.).

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    Drill Tenses Using Die

    The second activity can be turned into a game, ideally and most efficiently, between two people, or it can be done as a form of solitaire. All you need is a list of verbs, a set order of the tenses to be drilled and a die from a board game. Yes, a die from a board game – to provide the person and number for conjugating the verbs.

    Here is the key for using the die:

    Roll a one, and the verbs will be conjugated in the 1st person singular. Roll a two, and it’s the tú form (!), or 2nd person singular. Roll a three and it’s the 3rd-person singular. We have to get a little creative after that: a four equals the 1st person plural, or the nosotros form; if a student rolls a five and you are teaching the vosotros form, there you have it. If you are not teaching vosotros, roll again. A six? Conjugate the 3rd person plural.

    Happy conjugating from now on!

References

  • Author's more than 20 years experience teaching and translating Spanish.