How to Teach the Verb

How to Teach the Verb "To Be" to Beginners

The verb “to be” is the first verb students learn in their English studies.

It is used extensively in the English language and will allow students to create simple sentences with the vocabulary they have learned to date.

Teaching to be verbs

How To Proceed

  1. 1

    Warm up

    For this first lesson, it is best to focus on only the I, You, He/She/It structures which you can build upon in later classes. If students have not really done a lot of activities with the words he, she, and it, you may want to consider simply using names in the practice activities. Once you have determined what you would like to cover in the first lesson, use the warm up activity to review the vocabulary students will need later on in the lesson. A short simple drill activity would be ideal.

  2. 2

    Introduce Vocabulary

    During the introduction section of your lesson, introduce any new vocabulary you plan to use in this lesson. Some emotions and adjectives would be good because students will then be able to form complete meaningful sentences. Introduce words such as happy and sad if students have not yet learned them. Use flashcards to drill vocabulary and have students complete some simple worksheet activities for further practice.

  3. 3

    Introduce “to be”

    Show students how to make sentences such as “I am happy. You are happy. Jenny is happy.” Ensure that students understand how the subject and forms of the verb are paired. You can practice this before introducing the full sentence structure you would like students to learn. Call on students to make sentences choosing a subject, verb, and adjective from columns on the board. Without introducing the question form “Is she happy?” you can use such questions to test comprehension and students should understand what you are asking. Have them answer by saying “Yes, she is happy.” so that they continue to practice saying the target structure.

  4. To be verbs

  5. 4

    Practice Simple

    You can use worksheets for practice. Have students complete a fill in the blank exercise where they must choose am, is, or are to complete sentences to ensure that they understand which form of the verb agrees with certain subjects. You can also have students match sentences with images or with translations for practice and to test comprehension. As a class check the answers before continuing on.

  6. 5

    Practice Complex

    Students can then complete an activity such as Battleship for further practice. You can adapt this classic game for use in the classroom. While it can be time consuming to explain, especially to beginners, your students will enjoy playing and it can be used to practice a wide variety of topics. To play Battleship students should work in pairs using a worksheet. For this class, the grids on the worksheet might have I, You, He, She, Jenny, Ms. Smith in the first column and happy, fun, from Korea, sad, silly, from America in the first row. Students then practice sentences such as “I am silly.” to try to locate and sink all of their opponents ships first. There may not be enough time in the first lesson to begin this activity but devoting the second lesson entirely to Battleship would give your students lots of speaking practice. For a third class, introduce the question that goes along with this target structure and have students play using the same worksheet but by making questions such as “Is Ms. Smith from America?” The really great thing about this activity is that students essentially have to speak in order to play whereas with board games students may be tempted to simply roll the dice and move their pieces around the board without really practicing English.

  7. 6


    As a general review activity you can divide students into groups and play Hangman with sentences or words from their textbook. It is perhaps not appropriate to play the original game in your classroom so you can just adapt it so that no one actually hangs. One adaptation is to simply have a very large fish where when students guess incorrectly, a little fish gets closer and closer to being eaten. This is not very accurate as you can either draw the game out or end it whenever you choose. Another method of playing is to assign a point value to certain things. For example, if a group guesses the letter a and there are three in the sentence, the group would get three points. A correct guess of the entire sentence would be five points while there should be a penalty for guessing the entire phrase incorrectly but no penalty for guessing a letter that is not used. You can alter the scoring anyway you would like to make it more appropriate for your class.

Once your students are quite confident with making the sentences practiced in this lesson, you should include the plural we, you, they as well. As the first verb they study, “to be” is very important for your students and it is essential to get them to understand that the form of the verb is affected by the subject of the sentence.

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