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    #1

    Teaching verb tenses.

    Iím doing a fair number of assessments these days as part of the process of constructing learning plans. All my potential students have studied English to some level at school.

    In addition many have started trying to do an internet or book-based course. Their requirement is often to get a certification (often B2 or C1) as part of an application process for either a visa, employment opportunity or academic course.

    I find the most common and obvious reason they struggle is related to verb tenses. I'm sure not a surprising revelation.

    One method I use with one-to-one sessions is the timeline and visualisation approach.

    I would be interested in hearing of any advantages and/or disadvantages of this approach. And any other issues relating to say the order of teaching tenses and support words/phrases.

    My intuition tells me that perhaps starting with continuous could offer advantages, but Iíve only seen a few promoting this.

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    #2

    Re: Teaching verb tenses.

    When you're doing one-to-ones you have the advantage of taking a fully diagnostic approach. Find out where the errors lie and then prioritise accordingly.

    And if you're teaching learners who have the same L1 (Spanish, I presume?), then you will eventually begin to identify the issues that are typical for those speakers.

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    #3

    Re: Teaching verb tenses.

    Timelines can be a very useful way of illustrating the time-relationships involved in many uses of the various tenses and aspects if English. However, over-dependence on timelines can mask what I see as the key point about the English tense system: English tenses are about distancing/remoteness. The distancing may be in time (past v non-past) but it may also be in directness (direct v indirect) and/or reality (real/actual vis less real/counterfactual).
    Typoman - writer of rongs

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    #4

    Re: Teaching verb tenses.

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    When you're doing one-to-ones you have the advantage of taking a fully diagnostic approach. Find out where the errors lie and then prioritise accordingly.

    And if you're teaching learners who have the same L1 (Spanish, I presume?), then you will eventually begin to identify the issues that are typical for those speakers.
    jutfrank yes, they are spanish. And their own language has a strong correlation with English regarding verb tenses. However, I find that the students cannot offer a methodology for tenses in their own language, let alone for English. One observation is that they rarely use Past Perfect in Spanish, and thus do not understand its usage in English.

    And despite being one-for-one the timescales for my students are very short. But a full diagnostic as you suggest is something perhaps I need to prioritise. Maybe I could get that completed online. Thank you for highlighting that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Piscean View Post
    Timelines can be a very useful way of illustrating the time-relationships involved in many uses of the various tenses and aspects if English. However, over-dependence on timelines can mask what I see as the key point about the English tense system: English tenses are about distancing/remoteness. The distancing may be in time (past v non-past) but it may also be in directness (direct v indirect) and/or reality (real/actual vis less real/counterfactual).
    Piscean, to date I haven't had a student for sufficient time, who is at a sufficient level, to teach the subtleties. But I can see how over-dependence on timelines could become a negative. I will keep an eye on that. Thank you.

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    #5

    Re: Teaching verb tenses.

    It's a bit old now but I'd definitely recommend trying to get your hands on a copy of Teaching Tenses by Rosemary Aitken. It helped me a lot in my first few years of teaching.

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    #6

    Re: Teaching verb tenses.

    I agree with jutfrank about Aitken's very useful book. You can get very reasonably priced copies here.
    Last edited by emsr2d2; 10-Sep-2018 at 18:39. Reason: Fixed typo
    Typoman - writer of rongs

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    #7

    Re: Teaching verb tenses.

    Nigele,

    First, please read my post #8 in the thread listed below. (Ignore the Chinese part and just read the English part.)

    https://www.usingenglish.com/forum/t...olute-beginner

    My method is this: Ask a question, have the student answer, then have them ask you the same question, then have them listen to you answer the question. For example:

    Do you eat vegetables?
    Yes, I do.
    What kind of vegetables do you eat?
    I eat lettuce, cabbage, and celery.

    In order to teach verb tenses, you merely need to add questions with various tenses:

    Does your mother eat vegetables?
    Yes, she does.
    What kind of vegetables does she eat?
    She eats lettuce, cabbage, and celery.

    This method will also solve the problem of your students avoiding present perfect. Just ask them questions that require present perfect. Feel free to ask for examples.
    Last edited by NinjaTurtle; 12-Sep-2018 at 22:12.

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    #8

    Re: Teaching verb tenses.

    You are lucky having students who at least share the verb tenses of English, even though they are sometimes used differently. If you know enough Spanish, presenting the similar and the different ways the tenses are used can save a lot of time, at least for those students who can grasp this concept. Cognates are your friend!
    What I'm suggesting is that, even if you use the timeline method, you can still point out the differences and similarities, and you would not be wasting time (for most student's, I've found). But I have been tutoring Arabic and Chinese students who come to Australia to study, and I rarely teach students with a European L1.

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    #9

    Re: Teaching verb tenses.

    Quote Originally Posted by Piscean View Post
    English tenses are about distancing/remoteness. The distancing may be in time (past v non-past) but it may also be in directness (direct v indirect) and/or reality (real/actual vis less real/counterfactual).
    Or even social distance.

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    #10

    Re: Teaching verb tenses.

    Thanks to everyone who posted. I've taken onboard your points and those from several other contacts. I'm going to move to a approach based on Present, then future, then past. And will certainly use Ninja's approach within this structure.

    I have students waiting so sadly it was a matter of choosing an approach and pushing on. Not only for my face to face lessons, where clearly I can make inflight changes, but also I need to create more materials for my supporting Moodle site.

    Just like to say that after 3 years of seriously getting into teaching it is proving more exciting than I imagined it would.

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