K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

Learn more

Related pages

  • Sentence combining and decombining: Students will focus on stylistic choices and sentence fluency by combining, decombining, and recombining sentences in professional writing, peer writing, and their own writing.
  • Be the sentence: An interactive language arts activity: Students take on the roles of different words and punctuation and work collaboratively to create a complete sentence using correct parts of speech, word order, and punctuation. Students progress from simple sentences to more complex sentences.
  • Awesome action words: Good writers use precise verbs to make stories interesting and vivid. In this lesson, students will learn to replace boring, redundant, generic verbs with more precise “Awesome Action Words.”

Related topics


Please read our disclaimer for lesson plans.


The text of this page is copyright ©2008. See terms of use. Images and other media may be licensed separately; see captions for more information and read the fine print.

Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • identify past, present, and future tense verbs.
  • Students will correct inconsistent verb tenses.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

1 hour


  • Transparency #1: Past, Present, Future Chart (pdf | rtf)
  • Transparency #2: Verb Tense Paragraph (pdf | rtf)
  • One piece of notebook paper and a pencil for each student

Technology resources

Overhead projector or some other projection device



  1. Using the Past, Present, Future chart transparency, ask the students to place the following events in the correct column. Write the events on the chart as the students suggest where they should go. Students may suggest that some of the events may belong in more than one column (e.g., baseball season):
    • My birth
    • December of 2008
    • George W. Bush’s presidency
    • First manned space flight to Venus
    • George Washington’s presidency
    • First woman president
    • Baseball season
    • Discovery of electricity
    • The force of gravity
    • Class in session
    • First man on the moon
  2. When the students have placed all the events on the chart, ask the students to choose one of the events from one of the columns and compose a sentence about it on the paper you have asked them to place on their desks. Allow time for the students to choose an event and compose a sentence. Ask students to share some of their sentences. As the students read their sentences, write the verbs from the sentences on the board.
  3. When a variety of verbs (past, present, and future) have been listed on the board, ask the students to point out the verbs that tell that something happened in the past, the ones that tell that something is happening in the present, and those that tell something will happen in the future.
  4. Point out that the verb(s) in a sentence tell, not only what happens, but also when.
  5. Ask the students to consider the verb run. Today I run around the field. Yesterday, I ran around the field. Tomorrow, I will run around the field.
  6. Point out that past, present, and future are not the only verb tenses. For example, if players want to let the coach know that they have been following his advice about running around the field each day, they can say:
    We have been running around the field every day for a month.
    Explain that the verb (have been running) indicates an on-going process. The words have and been are parts of the verb that help to make the meaning clear. There are many other tenses. For today, focus on past, present, and future.
  7. Explain that, writers sometimes confuse their readers by changing verb tenses when they should be consistent (keep the same verb tense). For example, write the following sentence on the board:
    I work on my math homework as I talked on the phone.
    • Ask the students whether the verb work is past, present, or future. (Present)
    • Ask the student whether the verb talked is past, present, or future.(Past)
    • Point out the fact that the verb tenses in this sentence are not consistent (the same), and readers will likely become confused. Did the writer do his/her homework while they were on the phone, before they got on the phone, or after they got off the phone?
  8. Show students two versions of the above sentence with consistent verb tense:
    I worked on my math homework as I talked on the phone.
    I work on my math homework as I talk on the phone.
    Discuss how the different verb tenses change the meaning of the sentence.

Guided Practice

  1. Consider this paragraph: (Use transparency # 2 for Verb Tense)
    The dog saw the cat, and he will bark. He runs down the driveway and jumped on the cat’s back. The cat howls and slapped at the dog. The poor old dog gets a big scratch on his nose and will race back home.
    Ask the students what is the trouble with this paragraph. Ask them to look at all the verbs in this paragraph. (List the verbs on the board.)


    will bark






    will race

  2. Point out that some of the verbs are present, some past, and some future. Ask the students to work in pairs or small groups to re-write the paragraph so that all the verbs are in the same tense. (Have one student in each group take the role of scribe.) Assign some groups to write paragraphs in the past tense, some present, and some future. Allow about 5 minutes for students to complete the task.
  3. Allow students to share what they have written. Note the differences in how the paragraphs sound in the past, the present, and the future.

Independent Practice

To help students check their own writing for “time warp” inconsistencies, have them highlight the verbs in their writing and check that the verb tenses are consistent.

Followup Activities

Have students compare verb tenses in different narrative and expository genres: for example, narrative picture books, chapter books, and biographies, expository science books, magazine articles, science reports, recipes.


Can students:

  • identify the tense of verbs in the sentences and paragraphs?
  • correct inconsistent verb tenses?
  • identify inconsistent verb tenses in their own writing?

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • Language

        • Grade 3
          • 3.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking. 3.L.1.1 Explain the function of nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs in general and their functions in particular sentences. 3.L.1.2 Form...
        • Grade 4
          • 4.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking. 4.L.1.1 Use relative pronouns (who, whose, whom, which, that) and relative adverbs (where, when, why). 4.L.1.2 Form and use the progressive (e.g.,...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Arts (2004)

Grade 3

  • Goal 5: The learner will apply grammar and language conventions to communicate effectively.
    • Objective 5.02: Use correct subject/verb agreement.

Grade 4

  • Goal 5: The learner will apply grammar and language conventions to communicate effectively.
    • Objective 5.02: Demonstrate understanding in speaking and writing by appropriate usage of:
      • pronouns.
      • subject/verb agreement.
      • verb tense consistency.
      • subject consistency.