Helping Verb Games for Kids

Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

Looking for fun ways to incorporate verbs into classroom activities? This lesson describes several games you can use to make helping verbs come alive for your students.

Helping Verbs

Grammar is not always a fun topic to teach. However, you can use the inherent action in verbs to make them a more engaging teaching topic. But how do you make helping verbs, or verbs that expand the meaning of the main verb, just as interesting as action verbs?

The key to helping verbs is that they expand the main verb by showing different shades of meaning, especially when it comes to tense. The rest of this lesson outlines games you can play with students centered on helping verbs. Depending on the level of your class, make sure students have a firm grasp on helping verbs versus main verbs, and on the different shades of meanings and tenses of helping verbs.


Helping Versus Main Verb

The first game has students practicing differentiating between helping verbs and main verbs. For this game, split your class into teams. Depending on the level of your students, have each team come up with sentences, some with helping verbs and some without. For younger grades, use a children's book and point out sentences as you read it aloud. For each sentence, each team must decide if the indicated verb used is a main verb or helping verb. Correct answers earn points and the team with the most points wins!

Role Call

To play Role Call, students will practice using helping verbs in appropriate sentences. Split your class into teams and give each team a list of helping verbs. Read a story out loud. Plan specific sentences where you will skip over the helping verb or pause when one is needed. Have each team decide which helping verb from their list should be in that sentence. Correct answers earn points. Once a helping verb is used, it is scratched off the list.

For advanced students, don't pause at all while you read the story. Instead, they have to ring in to use a helping verb. The team that correctly uses all the helping verbs on the list before the story is done wins the game.

Tense Challenge

This game relies on understanding the different shades of meaning that helping verbs express. For this, come up with a list of uses or purposes for a helping verb, such as:

  • Expresses past tense
  • Expresses future tense
  • Emphasizes an idea

For younger students, keep the list short and simple. Then, read sentences aloud. In teams or individually, students should decide which shade of meaning is being used in that sentence. Correct answers earn points and the team with the most points wins.

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