Teaching the First Person Forms

The “we” form is a hard form to teach for acquisition, as it competes with the other five forms, which, really speaking, get most of our time with first year students. And the “I” form isn’t that easy to get a lot of repetitions on, either.

Just making sure that the kids can identify the second and third singular forms takes months and months when teaching present and past tenses.  Even the third person plural form is not easy to circle into stories.  What to do? (I am speaking in terms of auditory acquistion here, not memorization of written forms for a test.)

Since doing an entire story using the “we” form is too much to ask early in the year, we could instead insert it into stories in a kind of cameo, in and out, appearance during what I call the En Route Event. It is just a quick way to get the kids to hear the “we” form without concentrating on it before they are ready. How does the En Route Event work?

Cinderella goes through the forest. Does she go by automatic toilet or toad, class? That’s right, class, she goes by toad. C’est évident! …circle circle… Class, two cats cross her path! (two tennis balls, one normal size and the other one of those big ones, with faces of cats, roll across the room in front of Cinderella).

These cats crossing in front of Cinderella while she transitions locations comprise the En Route Event, which only occurs between locations. This  moment is my opportunity to teach the “we” form and to get further practice in the “I” form, in the following way:

First, DEVELOP THE REACTION of the girl to the cats. So:

“Class, is Cinderella afraid or is she happy? That’s right,
class, Cinderella is afraid, etc. etc. …circle circle…. Now at this
point instead of going on with the story and missing the chance, get some first “I” form practice in by asking Cinderella if she is afraid:

Cinderella says, “Yes, I am afraid.”

Instructor goes to verb wall and explains the shift from instructor’s 2nd to actor’s 1st person. Then:

“Cinderella, tell the cats that you are afraid! (a good actor will
milk this and I heap the praise on not just for the language but the acting.)

C. says, “Cats, I am afraid!”

Next, and here we go into the “we” form, giving the cats their voice. Class, What do the cats want with Cinderella? Listen to suggestions and accept one:

“We want chocolate!”

That’s it.  Now the instructor, using circling, can work in different verbs in the “we” form, and can include the dialogue in the written story later, and that is enough until later in the year. At least the kids have heard the form a bit in a meaningful and interesting context, which is all that is really required to learn a language.

Another option at this point: you can expand the scene to include the students in the class by asking them: “Class, are you afraid or is Cinderella afraid?” and they would answer,
Cinderella is afraid. We are not afraid, etc.”

Clearly, in stories we can get practice in first person points of view very nicely through circled dialogue and the En Route Event.


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