I hate conjugation. It reminds me of all the ‘bam-bas-bat-bamus-batis-bant’ stuff from Latin lessons (which I obviously haven’t forgotten!!) but I find it really hard to practise. So I try and devise lots of ways to make it fun and ‘sticky’.
The first thing you need for this are some fluffy dice (you can use ordinary dice, but if you find some fluffy ones in a car shop and chop the string off them, they’re much more fun and much less easy to lose!)
You can start with one and make the dice rolls more complicated as you go on. I have several different fluffy dice, a pink one and one with The Simpsons on it, included.
First, you give out a sheet with the verb to be conjugated. It might be really simple, just using the present tense. For example: ‘aimer’
You have 6 numbers on the first dice and this represents the ‘person’ – 1=I, 2=you singular or informal, 3=he/she/it/there/one, 4=we, 5=you, formal or plural, and 6 is they/there
You roll the die and the roller says whatever the die tells them to. So… if they roll 1, they say ‘I love’ or ‘j’aime’.
You go back and forth between you for about 10 rolls. You can use the sheet with the verbs on it at this point until they become comfortable with it and can do it without the sheet. I tend to do this for about 20 goes per person.
If you are handling more than one tense, this is where you use the second die. The first die tells you the person, the second tells you the tense. I usually use present, perfect past and imperfect past if I’m starting simple (or even just past tense and present tense) and divide the six numbers up, so odd numbers are ‘imperfect’ and even numbers are ‘present’ or 1&2 are present, and so on. If I’m doing all six, I do perfect past, present, imperfect past, pluperfect, conditional and future tenses. You can always add another dice to add another 6 tenses. When I’m learning French, that usually covers them all, including written-only ones.
If I’m doing a larger set of combinations, I usually do one verb (with 3 tenses) in 30 minutes – roughly 10 minutes on each verb and tense.
I want at least 2 goes each at each combination, so I’m looking at about 20 goes per verb tense.
When I’ve had about 20 goes for each verb/tense (so 120 throws for each larger combination) I then move on to ‘roll and complete’ where you roll the die/dice and then finish the sentence. Sometimes, I give prepared answers they can use if they get stuck… kind of common ways you might finish the sentence.
So… if I’m doing ‘to know’, I’ll say ‘I know’ and have cards that say ‘you’ or ‘kung-fu’ or ‘how to…’ and so on. They can play five of these cards to finish off the sentence. They should be able to complete 10+ sentences, even with just a simple, regular present tense verb. If you’re looking at 6 tenses, you’ve probably got a good 100+ sentences you can create.