Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Teaching Irish Verbs in Senior Classes

Recently I've been asked how I teach Irish verbs to Senior classes. Often verbs and grammar form a large part of the Senior class curaclam Gaeilge but textbooks only seem to go so far as using 'fill in the blank' exercises to teach these. I have used a variety of different methods to teach kids their verbs,
but below I have outlined my current favourite lesson structure. I find my kids pick up their verbs quite easily and generally enjoy the lessons too (as much as possible when you are teaching grammar!!).

I start with easy verbs like ól, ith and rith at the beginning of the year, which they will already recognise as ‘action words’ and will learn easily. I taught one verb a week in 3rd and 4th and teach two a week in 5th. The objectives of the lessons are not only to recognise the verb, but also to learn the Aimsir Chaite version of the verb and the changes that happen to it when converted into the Aimsir Chaite. (Please note: I also teach a grammar lesson once a week. In this, I go into depth about the Aimsir Chaite or whatever other topic we are covering so I don't spend too long on grammar rules in these lessons!)

Lesson Introduction
I begin the lesson by playing Deir Ó Grádaigh or simply a group mím using phrases like: ‘bí ag ithe, bí ag ól, bí ag léim, bí ag rith, bí ag scríobh, bí ag léamh’, etc to familiarise and remind them of basic verbs. As the verbs you are teaching get more challenging, drop the ‘bí ag’ and replace it with the imperative: Dún do shúile, léigh leabhar, scríobh litir, cuir do lámha ar an mbord, etc. (I deliberately don’t use the plural in this situation (e.g. lasaigí) as I think using the singular (e.g. las na soilse) in these types of lessons teaches them the stem of the word they will be converting to the Aimsir Chaite.)

Body of Lesson
1. Get them to write out notes on the verb being covered in the lesson. As you go, explain what the Aimsir Chaite is and make casual references to ‘always adding a ‘h’ to consonants or a ‘d’ to vowels’ to turn it into the past tense.

E.g:  Briathra

Tit = To fall
Aimsir Chaite: Past Tense:
Thit = I fell
Thit = You fell
Thit = He fell
Thit = She fell
Thiteamar = We fell
Thit sibh = Ye fell
Thit siad = They fell

2. Read through as a class and perform actions e.g. pointing to self, pointing to me, pointing to a girl/boy, etc.

3. Solidify the understanding of the verb by playing some games:
a.   Get a child to perform an action and ask the class ‘Céard a rinne sé?’ (E.g. Rug sé ar an liathróid, chaith sé an liathróid, bhuail sé an ___, etc.) Ask the whole class for a few rounds and then ask individuals. I give a ticket for correct answers.
b.   Choose three children to line up, get the class to close their eyes and one of the three will perform an action. Once the class have opened their eyes ask e.g. ‘Cé a las na soilse?’ and get the class to guess which child did it. The chosen child will answer e.g: ‘Níor las/las mé na soilse’.
c.   Give a child an action e.g. ‘rith sé’ without letting the class see which one he has been given. They will then act it out in front of the class. When they perform it, get the others to write on their whiteboards the action the child did and hold it up (e.g. rith sé). You can test sé, sí and siad this way. Get them all to do an action for mé/sinn and then do it yourself for the tú version.

Lesson Closure
Play Biongó using the verbs covered in the lesson as well as verbs covered in prior lessons e.g. rith mé, d’ól siad, d’ith sé, etc. Get them to draw out a table of nine boxes in their copies and fill in the words. Call out the words in English or use pictures and whoever gets three in a row/column wins the game.
Draw stick men on the board/use pictures on the interactive board of different people doing the action that you were focusing on in the lesson. Ask them to draw the stick people pictures into boxes in their copies and label each as ‘d’ith sé/d’ith mé/d’itheamar/etc’.
Make sure to keep revising previous verbs in lesson introductions and biongó games throughout the year to keep them fresh in their heads.

I test them on their verbs now and again in their Friday tests, asking them to write either the English for the verb or the Irish for the verb.

I hope you will find this post useful and let me know if you would like me to write some more grammar lesson posts in the future!


  1. An-deas, i mo thuairim. grma, Seán as www.facebook.com/irishlanguagelearners

  2. These are great ideas thank you .