One of the most prevalent issues in the language learning community, especially among ESL students, is subject-verb agreement, a problem where students sometimes choose an incorrect verb and pair it with a mismatched subject. For example, “the apples is big” instead of “the apples are big” illustrates incorrect subject-verb agreement. Baxter and Holland (2007) agree with this statement indicating that there is an obvious a problem regarding the mismatching the subjects with verbs. Generally speaking, there are two theories that explain why inflectional morphemes like plural and tense markers in English are difficult for L2 learners: the Missing Surface Inflection Hypothesis (Byrd, n.d.) and the Representational Deficit Hypothesis (Farrell, 2009). According to Shibuya and Wakabayashi (2008), both hypotheses argue that while L2 learners might not have a difficult time learning the basics of subject-verb agreement, or any syntactic feature for that matter, they do have trouble putting these concepts into practice or becoming fluent with them if these features are not first present in their native language (p. 252).
Both L2 learners and native speakers have difficulty with subject-verb agreement, and because of this, subject-verb agreement is useful in a variety of lesson forms. In the case of subject-verb agreement, teachers can facilitate easier learning by teaching the class with techniques that raise awareness of subject-verb agreement, thereby helping the learner recognize subject-verb agreement (Ellis, 2002; Fotos, 2002; Richards, 2009).
Upon observing a class of pre-intermediate level ESL students, it has been perceived that students could not master the agreement between the subjects and verbs and were reluctant to decide whether the verb and subject matched grammatically, especially when they were given a list of possibilities on the board. For example, the teacher wrote a simple phrase such as “The tree ___ green” and then students had to choose the appropriate verb from a list. Since the class was student-centered and students were largely correcting each other’s work during the observation, they had a difficult time learning this concept because the rules were never explicitly explained. To help students learn these rules, a three-sequence activity has been designed, each of which should take 30 minutes, giving a total teaching time of 90 minutes, along with hands-on and worksheet components to target pre-intermediate level ESL learners and help them internalize and identify whether subjects and verbs agree in case and number.
In essence, the subject-verb agreement grammatical rule states that singular subjects must have a singular verb, and plural subjects must have a plural verb. This rule can be illustrated as follows: singular subject+ singular verb, plural subject +plural verb.
Before beginning the three-sequence activity, the instructor models the grammatical concept with material aids such as a ball and box....