Keeping a Consistent Verb Tense in Writing Ryan Thomas Materials



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Keeping a Consistent Verb Tense in Writing


Ryan Thomas
Materials:

Students will need their writing workshop notebooks and will need to take notes in the designated “Writing Conventions” section.


Time:

Approximately 15 minutes


Objectives:

NCTE Standards


  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.



NCSCS Standards


  • Competency Goal 6: The learner will apply conventions of grammar and language usage.

6.01: Demonstrate an understanding of conventional written and spoken expression by:

      • using appropriate subject-verb agreement and verb tense that are appropriate for the meaning of the sentence.


Purpose of Mini-Lesson:

The purpose of this lesson is to make students aware that the verb tense that they choose to use in their writing affects the way the reader understands the piece of writing. This lesson will also inform students on when to use past, present, and future verbs in their writing. This lesson should be taught when students are beginning writer’s workshop, or any time the teacher feels that the students are confused about using verbs tenses in their writing. I will lead the student in a discussion of when to use past, present, and future verbs. I will develop a writing sample with verb tense inconsistency as an example for students to correct and hopefully they will be able to see where they could use improvements with verb tense in their own writing.

Activity:

Students will discuss aloud with me what the past, present, and future verb tenses are according to their textbooks, when writers use each tense, and what criteria to use when choosing the appropriate verb tense affective. Students will be able to ask questions about the verb tenses if they are confused. I will give them a writing sample I have developed that has verb tense errors for them to correct with me on the overhead as a class. Once the mini-lesson is over, the students will be able to recognize when they and their classmates are not using the appropriate verb tense.


Script:
I have really enjoyed reading the writing that you have been doing recently in our writer’s workshop. I have some ideas today about how to improve our writing. I have noticed that some of us are having trouble with keeping a consistent verb tense throughout our writing. Does anyone have an example of what I mean? (Give students a chance to answer. Reply if necessary to answer.)

I need for you to take notes in your “Writing Conventions” section of your notebook. Okay, let’s discuss when to use past tense, present tense, and future tense in our writing. Do any of you have any ideas about when each of the tenses is used? (Give students a chance to answer. Reply when necessary.) Let me give you some good definitions for you to record in your notebook.

First of all, it is important to keep a consistent verb tense in your writing so that the reader will know if is was a historical event that has already taken place in the past, a piece of writing that they should picture happen now in the present, or an event that will happen sometime in the future. The reader can get confused if the writer switches back and forth between verb tenses on accident.

Simple present tense is used for actions occurring at the time of the speaking or for actions occurring regularly. When would a writer choose to use present tense in his/her writing? (Give students a chance to give an example. If no response, use example: When he/she is trying to get the reader to picture the scene in his/her head as if it is happening right now. Write when to use present tense on overhead)

Next, future tense is used for actions that will occur in the future. When do you think a writer would need to use the future tense in his/her writing? (Give students a chance to give an example. If no response, use example: It is seldom that a writer would need to use the future tense, but it can be used when talking about something that is forthcoming or predictable. Write when to use future tense on overhead)

Okay, when do we use the past tense in our writing? (Give students a chance to volunteer. Correct answer: When the writer is wants the reader to know that he/she is talking about something that has already taken place. Write when to use past tense on overhead)

Excellent! Now that we know when to use each verb tense, let’s look at a piece of my own writing that has errors in the verb tense. Lets correct it together. (Read aloud piece of writing:

“Today was the best day of my life! I bought a new car. I was looking forward to this day for a long time. The car that I wanted is waiting for me when I had pulled up. I ran to it, looked inside, and will get a salesman to help me. I was able to drive the car around the neighborhood and I discovered that I had to have it. I would talk to the salesman and convince him to give me a good price. I am happy as I drive away from the dealership in my new Corvette.”)

Did you find that you had trouble understanding what I was talking about in this paragraph? I know it was a little confusing. What verb tense do you think that I should have used? (Give students a chance to answer: Correct answer: Since I began with “Today” I could either use past or present.)

Let’s fix this paragraph so that it is all in the present tense. (Ask students to correct it aloud with you. When finished, the paragraph should read:

“Today is the best day of my life. I am buying a new car. I have been looking forward to this day for a long time. The car I want is waiting for me as I pull up. I run to it, look inside, and call for a salesman to help me. He gives me the keys to drive around the neighborhood. As I am driving the car, I discover that I have to have it. When I get back, I talk to the salesman and convince him to give me a good price. I am happy now as I drive away from the dealership in my new Corvette.”)

Good guys! Now let’s fix it so that it is in the past tense. (Ask students to correct paragraph aloud with you. When finished, the paragraph should read:

“Today was the best day of my life. I bought a new car. I had looked forward to this day for a long time. The car had been waiting for me when I pulled up. I ran to it, looked inside, and called for a salesman to help me. I drove around the neighborhood and realize that I had to have it. I was happy when I drove away from the dealership in my new Corvette.”)



Great! Thank you guys for your help. Make sure that you put your notes in your “Writing Conventions” section of your notebook for an easy reference. Are there any questions?
Sample of Writing with Verb Tense Inconsistency

“Today was the best day of my life! I bought a new car. I was looking forward to this day for a long time. The car that I wanted is waiting for me when I had pulled up. I ran to it, looked inside, and will get a salesman to help me. I was able to drive the car around the neighborhood and I discovered that I had to have it. I would talk to the salesman and convince him to give me a good price. I am happy as I drive away from the dealership in my new Corvette.”


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