Every year, in every class, I do a lesson on the First Amendment. I’m just geeky enough that I can write the thing out by heart on the board.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Yes, I am.
Anyway, I want them to really GET what the First does – or, more importantly, what it doesn’t do – and to that end, I have them parse the sentence; I want to get to the VERBS in it to find out what kinds of protections we can reasonably expect.
Nearly all of them find make as the primary verb in the sentence, but only one or two every year understand that the full verb in that main clause is shall make. Most of the kids come to me not knowing what helping verbs are, and don’t understand that they really do change the meaning of the verbs which they precede.
Here, then, are the 23 helping verbs. I learned them by rote when I was in high school (or maybe it was middle school?), but I recently discovered a little song – set to the tune of jingle bells – that really helps to cement the list in kids’ heads. Ready?
“OH, helping verbs, helping verbs, there are twenty-three!
Am, is, are, was and were, being, been, and be-EE!
Have, has, had, do, does, did, may, might, shall and should;
there are five more helping verbs, may, might, must, can and could!”