Your Turn Lesson: That’s Perfect


            CCSS for fifth grade stipulate that students demonstrate how to form and use the perfect verb tenses. In discussing verbs “perfect” means “complete.” The past, present, and future perfect tenses describe actions that are already complete at that point in time. Young writers frequently fail to use perfect tense to show the relationships between two different times. Perfect tenses are formed by combining some form of have with the past participle of the verb. For example, the verb talk has the following forms:

  Verb       Present Participle        Past                Past Participle

talk          (is) talking                        talked                (have) talked

Present Perfect Tense: This tense form expresses actions occurring in the past which have effects in the present.  It is formed by adding have or has to the past participle of the verb.


I have always liked strawberry shortcake. (I still do)

For years my family has vacationed in North Carolina. (we still vacation there)

     Past Perfect Tense: This tense expresses actions completed in the past before some other action. It helps keep straight the time order of events in the past. Past perfect tense is formed by combining had with the past participle of the verb.

Colin admitted that he had given chocolate to the dog. (He gave chocolate to the dog before he admitted doing it.)

I received a higher grade than I had expected.

Future Perfect Tense: This tense expresses action that will be completed in the future before some other future action. It is formed by using will have or shall have along with the past participle of the verb.


As of next month, I will have taken piano lessons for one year.

By the end of this summer, my family will have been visiting North Carolina for ten years.

We recommend teaching one form of Perfect tense at a time beginning with present perfect tense.

Hook: Revisit Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back. Point out the use of present perfect tense. The two sentences: “Have you seen my hat?” and “No, I haven’t seen your hat,” are repeated throughout.

Purpose: Writers, today we’re going to talk about the perfect tense of verbs. Verbs are the muscles of a piece of writing, and verbs are the parts of speech that change when time changes. We call this change “verb tense.” We know about present, past, and future tenses. Today we’re going to talk about present perfect tense.

Brainstorm: Ask students to think about as many verbs as they can and jot them down in their writer’s notebooks. Ask each student to choose one verb from their list and create an anchor chart of verbs.

Model: Make three columns for each verb listed on the chart: Present, Past, Past Participle (most will likely be volunteered in the present tense, but in the event that a student gives a past or past participle form, place it in the appropriate column as listed).

Present                 Past                          Past Participle

Hop                 hopped                       (have/has hopped)

Run                 ran                              (have/has run)

Look                looked                        (have/has looked)

See                  saw                             (have/has seen)

Do                   did                              (have/has done)

Ask students what they notice about the difference between regular and irregular verbs in the Past Participle form. (Regular verbs form their past tense by adding -d or -ed to the present tense. Irregular verbs change their spelling entirely in the past and past participle form. This concept may take some more direct teaching, particularly for ESL students. Monitor understanding as you work with students on the guided and independent practice stages of the lesson so that you can form small groups for further instruction).

Guided Practice: Ask students to work with a partner to create a short conversation that uses present perfect tense using I Want My Hat Back as a model. You might model one first to demonstrate: “Have you ever run in the halls at school?” asked the teacher. “No, I have never run in the halls at school. That’s against the rules,” replied the student.

Let student pairs share their written conversations with another pair. You might share a few whole group as well.

Independent Practice: Ask students to return to their writer’s notebook drafts looking for a piece of writing that already uses perfect tense or one where perfect tense can be added to show specificity. During sharing time ask them to share how they knew that they used present perfect tense.

Reflection: Ask students to jot in the reference section of the writer’s notebook how they know when they are using present perfect tense. Then ask them to respond to one of the following questions.

What do I know about present perfect tense?

When can I use present perfect tense in a narrative piece

                        of writing?

How do I know that a verb is present perfect tense?







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