Low-level English learners are taught to add ‑s to form a plural noun fairly early on. Fortunately, most English nouns follow this rule. Unfortunately, but perhaps not unexpectedly, there are exceptions!
Luckily these irregular plural forms can be mapped out into several recognizable patterns for the most part. Some plural nouns, such as people, men, women, children, teeth, and feet are so commonly used that they end up being pretty easy to remember. Other less common plurals, like alumni, crises, lice, or sheep, take a bit more exposure and practice.
Introduce the following chart to your English language learners, and then give some of the suggested practice activities a try. Your students will be comfortable with irregular plural nouns in no time!
Before handing out the chart, write ten or more of the words from the chart randomly on the board. Challenge students to find common patterns among the words.
Bring in a soft ball (or use a small eraser or other small, soft object). Say a singular noun from the chart and toss the ball to a student. That student must give the plural form. Then that student will choose another singular noun and toss the ball to another student. Continue until all students have had a turn. You can choose to let them consult the chart or not.
Put your students in pairs and challenge them to add to the chart. Allow them to use their mobile devices or classroom computers to look up more irregular plurals. Make it more interesting by giving a time limit (the pair who has the most new words wins) or by insisting on five new words per category (or five new words in three categories of their choosing).
Put students into pairs and have them write their own dialogue using five (or ten) plural forms. Then have the pairs perform their dialogues for the class. Make it more interesting by having pairs use one incorrect plural form in their dialogue to see if the rest of the class can catch it during each performance.