Writing Activities: 2nd Grade Lesson Plans about Past Tense Verbs

Reviewing Verbs

Before teaching 2nd grade lesson plans about past tense verbs, review what a verb is and how it is used in a sentence. You can ask students if anyone remembers what a verb is and for specific examples. Make a list of student examples on the board. It doesn't matter if students answer the question by listing verbs in past or present tense or even if they provide "to be" verbs or "action" verbs. The important point with the review is that the students give you examples of verbs and NOT nouns, adjectives or adverbs.

Acting out verbs

The first part of this lesson is to ask students to draw an action verb card out of a hat or a bowl. (Before the lesson, you have to create action verb cards. These are basically index cards with action verbs written on them, such as jump, walk, blink, and so on. The first set of cards should have verbs where -ed is added to the end of the verb to create the past tense version.) When a student picks a card, he reads the word, and everyone in the class does the action. Then you write on the board a sentence such as, "The classmates jump when the bell rings." The sentence can be anything as long as it is present tense. Students can also provide a sentence for you, as long as it is present tense.

Making Them Past

Explain to students that if you want to say that you "jumped" an hour ago, you need to make the verb past. With many verbs the way to make a verb past is to add "-ed." (To make it easier for students, choose action verbs at first where you only have to add -ed to make the verb past.) Let students act out the verb again, and then change the sentence to past. So, with the above example, you would write, "Last hour, the classmates jumped when the bell rang." (Just focus on JUMPED even though rang is also a verb.) You can also ask students to give you more examples with the verb, jumped, by providing their own sentences orally. These you do not need to write on the board.

Student Practice

Once students have acted out several action verbs, and you have created sentences together as a class and recorded these on the board, then they can do their own sentences on paper. Students should write sentences with verbs in the past tense and draw illustrations to go with them. Depending on your students and the amount of class time, you can decide how many sentences and illustrations you want students to do on their own.

Irregular Verbs

What students will soon realize with these activities is that there are many irregular verbs–verbs where you do not add -ed to the end to create past tense or verbs that are not action words. You can approach this discovery in one of two ways. My suggestion is if students give you an action verb such as RUN, then tell them, "Yes, RUN is an action verb. Great job! It is a special action verb, and we make it past tense in a special way. I will show this to you on Friday when we do another fun activity with special action verbs."

When it comes time for this one of the 2nd grade lesson plans on past tense verbs, then approach the lesson the same way. This time on the action verb cards, you should write verbs that are irregular such as read, run, sing, and so on. Students choose a card, the class acts it out, and you write a present tense sentence on the board: "The class can sing a loud song."

Next, ask students ORALLY what to do to make the verb past. Most of them will know when saying "sing" in the past tense that it is "sang." So, students will provide this sentence, "The class sang a loud song at the concert last night." They might not realize "sang" is past tense or how to spell it, so that is why it is important to also write the sentence on the board.

Do a couple more irregular action verbs, writing the present tense sentence on the board and then asking students to orally give you the past tense sentence before recording it on the board. Once you feel students understand that not all verbs are made into past tense by adding -ed, then students are ready for individual practice. You can do the same type of assignment that was suggested for the regular action verbs.

In Closing

The important thing for students to remember in this lesson is that verbs have a past and present tense. Also, when some verbs are written in past tense, you add -ed. With irregular verbs, you usually change a letter or two to create the past tense. With irregular verbs, students just have to memorize the different forms.


  • Author’s experience: Elementary school teacher for 12 years