Past Simple, Past continuous teaching approach

nigele2

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Once more need your experienced based help.

I’ve been looking at how best to give clarity when revising simple past and past continuous. I say ‘revising’ as it seems to me teaching the different forms (including continuous interrupted by simple) seems moderately straightforward.

The students seem to make mistakes (perhaps, thinking about it, stating the blindingly obvious) when they must decide which combination of forms to use.

Just looking for clarification, or otherwise, that there are no clear rules of concept or other approach.

I’m planning on using a time line (which includes “the Jurassic period”, “3[SUP]rd[/SUP] August 1492”, “last week” and “9 o’clock this morning”), and getting students to identify the life span of various simple and continuous events. Followed by various quizzes.

Does that seem a good approach or are there rule based approaches?

When I did my TESOL this all seemed fairly straight-forward. But now the students are real!
 

nigele2

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Just to add an example of a concern:

In the following two examples the sentences set a time period (not a point in time).

- In 1994 he was working in Poland.
- In 1994 he worked in Poland.

The difference seems imprecise. However, the continuous I’d suggest offers a vagueness. It might more strongly infer he worked in Poland before 1994 or after 1994.

However, if we look at a point in time we get

- At the turn of the year he was working in Poland.
- At the turn of the year he worked in Poland.

Again, the difference, if there is any, is very subtle.

So, can I conclude that the simple past and past continuous are interchangeable in these contexts? And more importantly teach it as such?

Thanks for any thoughts.
 

Tdol

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In many contexts they may be, but when someone uses the continuous, they may have a reason for doing so- it could be the background to a narrative, for example.
 
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nigele2

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Tx tdol. (Sorry for delay, family stuff).

OK I've researched as much as I can. From what I can tell rules here are not the way to go. So with my first lessons (pre-intermediates I guess) I'm going for sentences with just pass simple or both past simple and past continuous. And include reference to time or time periods to give context. And introduce the time line diagram so they can get a feel for the vagueness of the isolated sentences they see in exercises.

Then later I'll look at more complex and variant structures.

And hopefully avoid spreading confusion :cool:
 

Tdol

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Hope it goes well.
 
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