AG3 were (aux/copula) with plural subject noun phrase

Intervention Outline

NB use of was for the plural copula/auxiliary is acceptable in some dialects, e.g. SE England, London/Kent.

Check out/teach present tense plural are accuracy first and only intervene if culturally valid.


You will need:

  • Five large, individual SC shape : oval, cloud,  semicircle, rectangle, diamond and/or SC app.
  • Symbols/ text for target diamond words: was/were.
  • Time triangle with past tense phrases, e.g. yesterday, a moment ago here
  • Objects, pictures, toys.
  • Small pictures or text flashcards of people and places.
  • Tokens and two slotted (correct /incorrect) posting box.


App settings:  Turn on plural nouns and plural past tense diamonds.


Machine generated alternative text:


Machine generated alternative text:


Machine generated alternative text:


First, assess awareness of target structure using grammatical judgement task. Present child with a series of sentences, some containing a correct form and some not, e.g. The boy were tired. The men were old. The girl was on the table. The ladies was in the car. Child posts token into posting box to indicate if they think the sentence is grammatically accurate or not.


If < 80% focus on grammatical judgement as well as use throughout intervention. This will support self-monitoring/correction skills.


For Steps 1-3, you could use these PowerPoint slides


Step 1: Teach rule

Show a set of objects of different colours or sizes.

Introduce Subject (oval) copula (diamond) Adjective (cloud) SHAPE CODING template:


the hat was blue


  1. Recap shapes and sentence for The hat was blue.  Ask questionsS “What was blue?” and  “What was the hat like?” The target response is blue. Discuss how the oval is what you are talking about and the fluffy shape tells us what the oval shape was like. Check student understand this.

Write blue in the cloud and place the hat in the oval.

  1. Explain that the word in the diamond shape must match the word in the oval. Add was and say the sentence together. Use a single red line under hat and single blue line under was.
  2. Add another blue hat into the oval. Say: “Now we have two blue hats, so need another red line under the hats to show more than one. Now the number of lines don’t match so we need to change the diamond word to match.”

Flip over/swap in the diamond with were and 2 blue lines.


the hats blue


Repeat with other subjects/colour combinations. Repeat with other subjects and adjectives.

Complete written exercises to practice as appropriate here


Step 2:

Repeat steps 1a c using Subject (oval) copula (diamond) Prepositional Phrase (semi-circle) SHAPE CODING template:


the hat the hats was on on the table the table


 Complete written exercises to practice as appropriate here

Step 3 : Teach plural aux

Repeat steps 1a- c using Subject (oval) auxiliary (diamond) Verb Phrase (hexagon) SHAPE CODING template:


the hat the hats was rolling rolling


Step 4. Reducing shapes: use fewer and fewer shapes/lines, but then bring back to check responses.

Step 5. Monitoring: SLT start to make “errors”, get student to spot and correct them:

  1. Using shape templates as an aid (see here)
  2. Without the templates.


Step 6. Consolidation:

  • At the end of each session, review verbs covered in previous sessions
  • Start to mix up sentences to use a range of subjects, copulas, auxiliaries and verbs consecutively (see here)


Complete written tasks as appropriate.


Step 7. Generalisation: Watch video clips and ask the student to create a report. Look at picture books, after each page, ask: “What was happening?” NB If you ask: “What was Dad doing?” an acceptable response would be just running. Give prompts that require a full Subject auxiliary Verbing sentence.