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Lesson Plan

What's My Subject? A Subject-Verb Agreement Minilesson

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Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Minilesson
Estimated Time 50 minutes
Lesson Author

Patricia Alejandra Lastiri

Patricia Alejandra Lastiri

Villanova d'Asti, Asti


International Literacy Association


Student Objectives

Instruction and Activities


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • Review subject–verb agreement and demonstrate their comprehension by identifying and discussing subjects and verbs, by looking at whether or not they agree, and by creating quizzes for their peers

  • Discover how subject–verb agreement forms vary in formal and informal English by looking at news headlines and song lyrics and by discussing the differences they see there

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Instruction and Activities

1. Assess what students already know about subject-verb agreement by asking them if they know what it means. If necessary, provide an explanation as you have prepared to do (see Preparation, Step 1).

2. Ask students to explore the News Summaries site and to read the headlines. Ask them to choose one or two that interest them most, to identify the subject and verb in each, and then to scan the articles that accompany them, collecting three or four sentences in which they also identify the subject and verb.

3. As students work, write the following questions on the board:
  • How do you identify the subject of a headline?

  • Are headlines written differently than the first or second sentences of articles? Where is it easier to find the subject?

  • What do you notice about the verbs in headlines? What about in the body of the articles?
4. Once students have collected their sentences and identified the subjects, have them review their sentences orally and ask them to respond to the questions on the board.

5. If it is clear that students are having trouble identifying subjects and verbs, you may choose at this point to have them visit the Subject-Verb Agreement website. Otherwise, ask them why they think it matters that the subject and verb always agree in a newspaper article. Can they think of instances when this agreement is less important? Discuss the fact that if we were writing a paper, giving a speech to our class, or talking at a job interview, we would use more formal English but that if we were chatting with our friends we might not always observe the rules of subject-verb agreement. (For example, we might say something like "either of the outfits are great.") Ask if there are times in written English when the agreement might deliberately be incorrect (e.g., in the dialogue of a story or play). If you have read any books or plays recently where characters speak in dialect, you might point to these as examples.

6. Have students visit the James Taylor lyrics - Rainy Day Man website and ask them to read the lyrics to "Rainy Day Man." Once they have done so, ask them how the song describes the rainy day man. Students will provide answers such as, "Now, rainy day man, he don't like sunshine, he don't chase rainbows, he don't need good times...." Write these examples on the board.

7. Now ask students if there is a problem with these sentences. They should be able to point out how they are grammatically incorrect. Once they have done so, ask them to correct the sentences; write the corrections on the board.

8. Read the corrected sentences aloud. Ask students what the difference is between the corrected sentences and the song lyrics. Questions for discussion include:
  • Which sound better, the grammatical or ungrammatical versions of the sentences?

  • Why do they think James Taylor deliberately wrote ungrammatical sentences?

  • Can they think of other examples of song lyrics where this happens?

  • When do they use ungrammatical language (i.e., when they talk to their friends versus when they talk to their teachers)?

  • Is ungrammatical language ever appropriate?
9. To encourage students to demonstrate what they have just learned, ask them to create a quiz for their classmates to identify subjects in sentences. Their quizzes should have four or five sentences; they can imitate the sentences they collected from the news articles or use the Subject-Verb Agreement website as a model. To make sure they write meaningful and challenging sentences turn this activity into a competition in which only those who have identified the subject in more complex sentences will get points.

You might want to provide a sample sentence to show students what you mean by complex. For example: J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter novels, together with John Grisham, author of numerous best-selling thrillers, (IS/ARE) among the most widely-read writers in the United States.

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  • Have students use the online Crossword Puzzle tool to create a crossword puzzle where the clues are fill-in-the-blank sentences with the verb left out and the infinitive of the verb list at the end of the sentence, e.g., My sisters __ all English teachers (to be). Students can solve each other's puzzles online or print and swap puzzles. See Creating Puzzles: A Guide for Teachers for more information.
  • Students who are taking the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) might want further practice on these websites:

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    • Informally assess students’ comprehension during discussion. Are students able to correctly identify the subject and verb in sentences? Do they know when the verb agrees correctly?

    • Collect students’ quizzes and check them for accuracy. You might also collect and check peer responses.

    • The Subject–Verb Agreement website has three different quizzes that allow users to score themselves at the end. Each quiz also provides explanations of why answers are correct or incorrect. Have students complete one or more of the quizzes independently and check their work. You might also have them write down the answers they got wrong and the explanation of the rule.

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