In the Spanish language, a verb in the preterite tense is used to refer to an action that takes place over a certain period of time or at a specific point in the past. For instance, "Llegamos a casa muy tarde el lunes por la noche" translates to, "We got home very late Monday night." Preterite verbs may also refer to sudden changes in mood or state, actions that have been performed a certain number of times, or as part of a linked chain of events.

Friendly Competition

After students have learned the basics of preterite verbs, divide them into two teams. Have each team line up or order themselves in some other way, and have the first person on each team come to the blackboard. Give a regular -ar, -er or -ir verb and a pronoun. The first person to write the correct preterite conjugation and pronounce it correctly wins a point for their team. This game can go on as long as you wish, or until you run out of verbs. For added excitement, have team members race to the board.

Preterite Craps

Divide students into groups of three, and give each group a die and a set of cards that each have a regular -ar, -er or -ir verb on it. One student in each group is the "gambler" and rolls the die. Each number on the die corresponds to a Spanish pronoun -- one means "yo," two means "usted," and so on. One student is the "house" and turns over a card each time the gambler rolls a die. The gambler and the house compete to see who can conjugate the verb on the card with the pronoun on the die first. The third student is the "boxman," who has a book open and checks the answers. He also decides the winner in any disputes. After ten rolls of the die, whichever student has won the most rounds becomes the boxman.

Gained in Translation

Prepare index cards with English sentences regarding things that happened in the past. Distribute them among the class and have students translate them into Spanish using either the preterite or the imperfect, then have them pass each card to a different classmate and repeat until all students have translated ten or twelve cards. This is a good way to teach them which tense to use in a given situation.