My students particularly enjoy this activity as everybody has a chance to try out the sounds, whilst I can step away from the board and observe the class at work.
You will need to produce a set of around 12 cards, with a (regular) past simple verb on each. Make sure they're large enough to be seen from the back of the room.
- I start by holding up the cards, for students to tell me what the words have in common. Once they've identified that they're verbs/past simple/regular (i.e. All with '-ed' endings), I drill the verbs.
- I then write up three categories on the board:
-ed= / t / -ed= / d / -ed= / Id / liked learned wanted
- I point out that these represent different sounds and ask the class to read them out. I then show the first card, e.g. like, ask students to say it aloud, and decide which category it goes in.
- Once they indicate the correct category, I stick the card to the board. If necessary, I over-emphasise the 't' sound to highlight that it corresponds to the '-ed' ending. I repeat this for a second card, e.g. wanted.
- I then elicit that the two verbs, like and want have the same past simple ending, but the pronunciation is different. I tell the students that I'm going to give them the cards to put in the right category. Depending on the size of the class, I hand out two cards per pair / group.
- I then sit at the back of the class and observe as the students decide where their verb goes. I remind students to say the verb aloud to help them.
- Usually, within minutes, one of the more confident students goes to the board; the others soon follow.
- Once I feel students have done what they can, I tell them how many verbs are not placed correctly. Note: I don't say which ones, just how many, e.g. '3 verbs are not correct'. I then encourage students to make changes. Again, I comment, e.g. 'Now, 2 verbs are not correct!', so students know how to proceed.
- Once changes have been made, I ask the class to read the verbs aloud. I praise them for successfully completing the task!
- With older or more analytically minded students, the rule for when the verb is pronounced / Id / (i.e. When the verb already ends in a / t / or / d / sound) can now be elicited. As regards the / t / and / d / distinction, I find that students produce this quite naturally (being a question of which sound is easier) - a better option than trying to work out complex rules.
- Students then have a few minutes to copy their work to their notebooks, adding one verb of their choice to each category.