Play-Based Activities for Irregular Past-Tense Verbs

One of my most common goals for patients is mastering irregular past-tense verbs like drove (instead of drived), swung (instead of swinged), flew (instead of flyed), and ate (instead of eated).

I always start this target with flash cards and use a least-to-most cueing hierarchy (unless the child needs a consistent level of support in which case I’ll start there and then gradually give them less). So I’ll show them the card with the present tense and say “He’s eating.” then switch to the past-tense card and say, “Yesterday he…” If they need help I’ll ask, “Is it eated?” If they need more help then I’ll ask, “Is it eated or ate?” and switch the position of the target so that I either say it first or second.

Once a child masters the flashcards I switch to play-based activities because they’re more effective and keep kids motivated to keep working. Here are a couple activities I use for irregular past-tense verbs.

Li’l Woodzeez & Calico Critters

My patients love using the Calico Critters and Lil’ Woodzeez for their work! I love that the kids are motivated to work and eager to come back for more.

For irregular past-tense verbs I use the Li’l Woodzeez camper set (cost: $34.99) for “drove,” the Li’l Woodzeez airplane (cost: $32.99) for “sat,” “read,” “ate,” “fell (asleep),” “slept,” “woke,” “stood,” “flew,” and “went,” and the Calico Critters treehouse (cost: $13.39) for “slid,” “hid,” and “swung.”  Any of the family sets can be used to target “ran.”  The camper and Li’l Woodzeez Health Clinic (cost: $19.99) can also be used for “slept.” The off-brand Best Choice Deluxe Cottage Dollhouse (cost: $49.99) can be used for almost all these targets.

I let the patient play with the set for a while and keep an ear open for targets. Then I’ll interrupt their play and ask, “What did they do?” or, to be more specific, “What did they do with the car?” If they have trouble with that I’ll tell them, “They were driving and driving and now they’re done. What did they do?” If that isn’t enough I’ll ask, “Did they ‘drived’?” and if they still need more help I’ll ask, “Is it ‘they drove’ or ‘drived’?”

These targets are much easier logistically than the irregular plurals. Since so many targets can be used with so many of the toys I don’t have to worry as much about having the right toys clean for the right patients.

Here are some more ideas for using Li’l Woodzeez and Calico Critters for speech and language treatment.

Toca Life World

My room for targeting irregular past-tense verbs in Toca Life World.

I set up a room for irregular past-tense verbs in my Toca Life World game. I only have to prepare the room once (unless the game crashes). For each child I’ll load the room and then put the dog on the bed and say, “He’s sleeping and sleeping and sleeping,” before I take the dog off the bed and ask what he did. Just like with the flash cards and move through the cueing hierarchy (again, unless a child demonstrates a consistent need for the same level of support).

Here’s my tutorial for creating a room to target irregular past-tense verbs in Toca Life world for FREE.

Here are some more ideas for using Toca Life World in speech and language treatment.

Disney Shorts

To work on irregular past-tense verbs with Disney short videos I periodically pause the video and ask the child, “What happened?” If the child gives me a grammatically-correct utterance (“Jack Jack grew”) then we play more of the video. If they make a grammatical error (“Jack Jack growed“) then I’ll repeat what they said as a question with emphasis on the error word (“Wait – is it ‘growed’?”). If they’re not able to fix their error I’ll give them choices (“Is it grew or growed?”).

I find the hardest target to work on for this is irregular past-tense verbs so I made a list of irregular past-tense verb targets for my favorite Disney shorts.

Here are some more ideas for working on irregular past-tense verbs.

And here are some more ideas for using Disney shorts in speech and language treatment.

Toca Kitchen Monsters

Toca Kitchen Monsters is another FREE app from Toca Boca. In this one we get to choose a monster, choose different ingredients, and try to prepare food that the monsters will eat.  While my patients are playing it (or I’m playing it for them online) I can target the following irregular past-tense verbs:

  • Chose – the kids get to choose the brown or blue monster, then I can ask them, “What did we do first?  Is it ‘we choosed‘?”
  • Got – the kids take ingredients out of the refrigerator (found by swiping the left edge of the screen to the right) and then I can ask them, “What did we do next?  Is it ‘we gotted food’?”
  • Took – I target this the same way as “got” so I ask, “What did we do with the food?  Is it ‘we taked it from the fridge’?”
  • Put – the kids put the ingredients on the monster’s plate then I can ask, “What did we do with the food?  Did we ‘putted‘ it on the plate?”
  • Ate – the kids can pull the food up to the monster’s mouth and if he eats it then I can ask, “What did he do with the food?  Is it ‘he eated it’?”
  • Blew – When the monster won’t eat the food he’ll blow a raspberry at it.  The brown monster will do this with the tomato, lemon, and raw steak and the blue monster will do this with the broccoli.  After this happens I ask, “What did he do?  Is it ‘he blowed a raspberry’?”  Sometimes I’ll have to explain what a “raspberry” is in this context, but kids usually understand what I’m talking about the second time around.
  • Let – When you try to feed the brown monster a raw tomato and the blue monster raw broccoli they let the food fall off the table and onto the ground (where we can’t see or retrieve it).  For this I’ll tell the kids, “It was rolling off the table and he didn’t even stop it – what did he do? Is it ‘he letted it fall’?”
  • Fell – After the food falls I can also ask, “The food was falling off the table and now it’s all done.  What did it do?  Did it ‘falled’?”
  • Made – after we prepare the food with the kitchen tools (found by swiping the right edge of the screen to the left) I can ask, “What did we do with the food?  Is it ‘we maded it’?”
  • Cut – after using the cutting board to cut the food into pieces I ask, “What did we do with the knife?  Did we ‘cutted’?”
You open the fridge by pulling the left side of the screen to the left…
…and you can find the tools by pulling the right side of the screen to the left.
The blue monster blew a raspberry when I tried to get him to eat broccoli.

Toca Pet Doctor

I think this is my patients’ favorite game! I usually use it for social inferencing (identifying each pets’ feelings and the cause of those feelings), but I use it for irregular past-tense verbs, too. As we play the game I’ll ask the kids questions like, “What did we do?” or, to be more specific, “What did we do with the bandage?” If a child needs more help I’ll narrate as I’m going along (“I’m putting on the bandage.”) before asking the questions. If that isn’t enough I’ll ask, “Is it ‘put’ or ‘putted’?” Here are some irregular past tense verbs found in Toca Pet Doctor…

  • Fed – after you help each pet you get to feed it treats.
  • Ate – after the pet eats all it’s treats.
  • Slept – all the pets sleep after they get their treats.
  • Put – we put bandages on the pigeon, rabbit, and yellow bird, we put medicine in the spider’s eyes and on the frog’s bumps, and we put an ice pack on the yellow bird’s bump.
  • Broke – the pigeon broke his/her arm and we broke the egg to free the snake.
  • Got – the lizard got flies stuck in his stomach, the cat got scratched, the turtle got stuck on his/her back, the beaver got twigs stuck in his/her teeth, the blue bird got stuck in gum, the mouse got bubbles in his stomach, the yellow bird got hit in the head, the snake got stuck in his egg, and the worm got tied into a knot.
  • Caught – the snail caught bugs, the spider caught pinkeye, the frog caught bumps, the dog caught fleas, and we caught all the fleas with the dog, the bugs with the snail, and the flies with the lizard.
  • Fought – the cat fought another cat.
  • Hit – something hit the yellow bird on the head.
  • Shrunk – the ice shrunk the yellow bird’s bump.

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