Use of Verb Conjugation Charts

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5 thoughts on “Use of Verb Conjugation Charts”

  1. I have a conjugation chart up on my wall, and we conjugate regularly in class.

    It’s just that we conjugate horizontally rather than vertically: “Hans eats pancakes with butter and syrup. Does Hans eat pancakes or throw pancakes? Right! He eats pancakes. Who throws pancakes? Oh! Hannelore throws pancakes like Frisbees. Hannelore is the champion pancake thrower, but Hans is the champion pancake eater.” See? We conjugated eats, throws and is in the third person singular. [conjugate < Lat. conjugat “yoked together” < conjugare “to yoke together” < con “with” + jugum “yoke” – we yoked the third person nouns and verbs together.]

    As far as the conjugation chart is concerned: it’s there, and I will occasionally refer to it when I am helping students edit some writing using the Monitor function – in third or fourth year. I take the time to explain the color-coded chart and regularly have at least one student exclaim, “Oh! Is that what that thing is all about? I always wondered. That’s cool.”

  2. I have some irregular verb charts on the wall because the different forms don’t really sound like they come from the same verb and it saves me from having to write the translations on the board…but thinking about it now, maybe I don’t even need that because I can mime “Je suis” (I am) and “Ils sont” (they are) pretty easily. How much should I care about my students noticing the irregularity as opposed to just understanding what I am saying and letting the words roll around in the brains?

  3. Carly this is precisely it. You see, if we are trying to direct our instruction to the unconscious faculty, where language is acquired, then having anything on the wall that requires that they use their conscious mind (to “think” about it – which is not what we do), then the chart becomes a hindrance.

    And by the way, I found that it took me years as a French teacher to get them to hear and instantly process those particular two forms. Those are really late acquired and very subtle. You say them as much as you can in class, go on a little side circling riff when they come up to get even more reps, and then rely on the kids reading the forms a ton, and time and lots of reps get done what the chart cannot. That distinction, none of the language really, can be memorized.

    So you said it perfectly – keep using them and let the words “roll around in the brains” and they will one day eventually use them correctly, output them correctly, entirely because they heard and read them enough.

  4. So Carly on a similar point – the difference between ils ont and ils sont – in the past I would love to stop and explain how the former of those two gets the z liaison sound and the latter gets the hiss of a snake sound. Little did I know that in so explaining the difference between the sounds, I was in no way helping the kids to tell the difference in speech. It all happens too fast for the conscious mind! Our job is to shove the process down into the unconscious mind. Why, once we get liftoff on a story (that means the students’ unconscious minds, Chomsky’s LAD, are fully operational), would we bring the plane back down to earth like that? So now I only point out such accent and grammar tidbits in the reading, and almost never in a story. Which is why I think we should all cool pop up grammar during stories. Few of us pop it up, we dredge it up and kill the story. The way many of us do pop ups is like a steam roller, flattening out the story, so now I teach accent points and grammar when we are speaking English doing the translation of the reading in Step 3. My inner Grammar Freak is happy, and my self-that-knows-better is happy too.


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