English Grammar: More on Using Short Paragraph Stories to Teach Past Tense in English
So here’s another example of a short paragraph story which I’ve used to teach pronunciation of the past tense in English using regular verbs. Admittedly, it takes some thought to write one of these but the effort is worth it since the learners seem to enjoy this form of grammar in context. Normally, a passage would contain a mix of both regular and irregular verbs in English. However, when practicing the –ed, –d, –ded, and –ted endings pronunciation, these types of exercises can prove to be invaluable. A short paragraph story of this type is much more difficult to pronounce and causes the speaker to intently focus on the past tense verb endings. Try them, you’ll see.
A Pacific Coast Trip
I talked to my family in the United States last week. They wanted to hear about when I traveled to the rain forest. My wife and I excursioned from Buenaventura and departed by boat. First we slipped and stumbled down a gangplank that tipped as we boarded the cargo ship. The vessel bobbed, rocked and dipped as it plowed through the waves which sometimes splashed on our sandaled feet. At night, the pin-pointed stars winked at us soon after the sun dropped below the horizon which stretched before us. The constellations looked back at us while we watched them as they rotated in the darkened sky. The Big Dipper turned in the North. The Southern Cross marked the heavens below the Equator, but we failed to see it. A crescented moon reflected sunlight that shimmered off waves which rolled across our seascape. By morning we reached the port of Nuqui, where we disembarked. We truly enjoyed dolphins that played near the boat and delighted at Humpback whales as they jumped and crashed into the waters nearby.
Past Tense Pronunciation Practice
There are several good activity types which can be brought to bear when teaching the past tense of regular verbs in English. First, there is straight pronunciation practice by reading the short paragraph story aloud in groups, then individually. The teacher should initially model the pronunciation aloud to give learners a good frame of reference. Learners can list the verbs by endings types; -ed, -d, ded, or -ted, to guide in their pronunciation. Then these lists can then be practiced individually allowing the EFL teacher an opportunity to hear pronunciation problems which can be focused on later. In addition, the teacher should model any problem sounds learners might have, reminding them that in English, ending sounds must be clearly and distinctly pronounced. Native speakers can easily hear the ending sounds of words which frequently provide a change in meaning, tone, verb tense or grammatical part of speech. The pronunciation of worked in the past sounds like “workt” making the past tense clearly distinguishable from the present tense form of the verb “work”. This is one of the clearest distinguishers between good and poor English pronunciation. You might also want to make up a set of flash cards using regular verb examples noting that ending sounds can sound like a “t”, a “d” or that the ending syllables “-ted” and “-ded” are fully pronounced.
Pronouncing Word Endings is Important
Some other languages such as French or Spanish are notorious for speakers cutting off word endings. Just think of words like beret, fiancée, lingerie and caberet; none of which have the ending letter pronounced – not even when they’re used in English. The same is true of sachet or the French painter Monet. You don’t pronounce the ending sound “t”. In English however, ending sounds are almost always pronounced except when a word comes from another language like those just mentioned. Finally, remember that learners will invariably make loads of mistakes and laugh, so have fun without embarrassing anyone, OK?