Lesson plan

From Present to Past: Verbs with a “Y”

Do your students struggle with changing “y” verbs from present to past tense? Use this lesson to help your students transform the “-y” verbs that don’t follow the typical “add -ed” rule.
GradeSubjectView aligned standards

Students will be able to use the suffixes -ed and -ied to change the verb forms of words that end in -y. Students will be able to distinguish the differences in past tense verb forms of words that end in -y.

(5 minutes)
  • Tell your students that they are going to play a game of “I Spy.”
  • Write the following words on the board as follows: "cry → cries" and "cry → cried"
  • Ask the students to look for any similarities and differences in the words. What changed? What stayed the same?
  • Tell the students that they will be learning how to change verbs that end in “y” to past tense using the suffix “-ed.”
(10 minutes)
  • Write the rules from How to Change Verb Tenses on the board.
  • Explain that you will be using them to change verbs that end in “y.”
  • Write the following words on the chart paper as a single list (one word on each line): Cry, enjoy, betray, try, and bury.
  • Model the process of checking each word to determine how it should be changed into the past tense. As you model, think aloud so that students understand why you made the changes.
  • Write each new word next to the original word. (Example: cry → cried)
  • Trace each change in a colored marker so that students can see the distinct changes that were made.
(10 minutes)
  • Distribute two index cards to each student and lead the students in creating sample cards (students will create one card for each example).
  • List the following words on the board and allow students to choose one word from that list: carry, hurry, worry, rely, and copy.
  • Have the students write one word on a blank index card.
  • Have the students look at the rules and decide how they should change it to past tense.
  • Ask the students to draw an arrow from the first word and write the new word next to the arrow.
  • On the back of the card, ask the students to explain how why they changed the word.
  • Circulate around the room as students are working and ensure that they are changing the words correctly and providing accurate explanations.
  • Repeat the process with the following group of words: pray, play, portray, and relay.
  • Have the students choose a second word and repeat the process on their second index card.
(15 minutes)
  • Tell the students to think of more verbs that end in "y" and ask them to use the directions on the board and fill out additional index cards.
  • Distribute Changing the -y Verbs worksheet.
  • Circulate around the room as students work to assist as needed.


  • Challenge students to consider other forms of the verb to include the ending “-ies.” Have the students create the new forms of the words. Ask the students to write sentences using these words in context.


  • Work with students individually or in small groups and have them highlight the vowel or consonant before the “y” before they write the new word.
  • Provide individual lists of examples for students to compare similar words that end in “y.”
  • Utilize an interactive whiteboard and have students fill in the endings of words that need to be changed to the past tense.
  • Use interactive flash cards within interactive whiteboard software. Have students identify whether certain words have been changed correctly. Encourage them to justify their responses.
(10 minutes)
  • Have the students complete the Use the Rules: Verbs that End in Y worksheet as an assessment.
(5 minutes)
  • Ask students to take out the flash cards that they made in the beginning of the lesson.
  • Have the students pair up and explain their work to a partner.
  • Give students the opportunity to share their work with the whole group, using the rule poster for comparison.

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