Anchor Standard #8 ASL Tense
Benchmark #1 ASL Tense Concept Development


OBJECTIVE Organize events in time characterized by DESCRIBING predicates according to three larger categories: (1) events occurring NOW, (2) events having occurred BEFORE NOW, and (3) events that will occur AFTER NOW.



Lesson Materials:

  • LCD projector
  • Time Line accessible to the entire room.
  • DESCRIBING Predicate Activity sheets
  • Tense Category Cards


Lesson Procedure:

Benchmark #1 ASL Tense Concept Development

ASL Formative Assessment AS #8, Benchmark #1

The steps for this portion of the objective are different as this predicate type deals with “states” rather than activities in time. Reinforce that we are now focusing on DESCRIBING predicates. Highlight this predicate type on the Sentence Structure Poster.

Teacher Note:

Reinforce that WHAT HAPPENED predicates are characterized by observable actions, HAS Predicates are characterized by holding something, and DESCRIBE Predicates are characterized by an entity that is not performing an action or  holding something. Recall that we are doing our best to keep the Predicate categories clean and accessible for now. We will expand on this.

Once everyone is clear about the predicate type, show students the “TENSE & DESCRIBING PREDICATES” sheet/poster (provided below and as a PDF). The sheets will identify three “states” that a noun (person, place, thing, or animal) will assume over time (BEFORE NOW, HAPPENING NOW, and AFTER NOW). Quickly review what each column represents.

The images you use in this lesson should represent the same (or a very similar) noun undergoing a change in each stage. However, rather than having the images printed on the Activity Sheets as in prior lessons, images should be made in the form of squares. These squares will be arranged on the TENSE & DESCRIBING PREDICATES” sheet (see above) in different sequences. All examples are provided below as downloadable PDFs.

Introduce the idea using the “changing noun squares” in the example below. In this example, we are referring to hands than change over time.

Make sure everyone has a chance to participate using the practice sheet. Talk about how we have been studying the three “zones” of time and what they mean. Then, move to the new practice sheets and have students do the work independently.

Three additional sheets are made for you. Each contains objects that are typically accessible in a classroom. However, please feel free to be creative and zany as you make your own Visual Activity Sheets.

Thematically-relevant ideas are always encouraged. Think of, and bring in objects of that you know your students will be thrilled to hold! The sheets should look something like the example above.

Continue with the procedure we have outlined until all students have successfully showcased their ability to recognize how “having objects” in time are linked to the three zones.

­­In the next objective, we will introduce how tense interacts with DESCRIBING predicates.

Hold up each square. Ask students to determine the noun that is common to all images. Everyone should agree that our NOUN is HANDS. Once everyone has arrived at the answer and has had time to review the images, ask students to describe what is changing about our NOUNS over time. Make it clear that we are talking about DESCRIBING PREDICATES!

Review the test we apply in order to determine predicate type (i.e., (1) there is no visible movement on the part of the SUBJECT, and (2) no SUBJECT is holding anything; therefore, these images represent a NOUN being modified by a DESCRIBING PREDICATE!)  In this example, appropriate sentences would be:




Place each square in one of the 3 tense columns so that your sheet/poster looks something like the following:

Start by referring to (pointing to) the HAPPENING NOW column. Ask your volunteer stand on the Tense Zone that corresponds to RIGHT NOW. Ask them “WHEN?” this state is occurring. They should be able to answer appropriately.

Additionally, ask the volunteer to compose an ASL sentence for each image to which you refer. For example, when pointing to the HANDS in the HAPPENING NOW column, students might generate the following sentence:


When pointing to the HANDS in the BEFORE NOW column, students might generate the following sentence:


When pointing to the HANDS in the AFTER NOW column, students might generate the following sentence:


Repeat this procedure using other examples from the list of suggested stimuli provided.

When you pass out the Tense & Describing Predicate Sheets, and the “CHANGING NOUN” cards, ask your students to arrange the cards on the sheets in ways that make sense.

The cards can be arranged in creative ways, but here are suggestions to guide you as your students engage in this activity.


Traffic light undergoing change.

Boy undergoing change.

Ice cream undergoing change.

Weather undergoing change.

Man’s facial hair undergoing change.

Sheep undergoing change

Boy undergoing change.