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Ways to Teach Multiple Tenses Using The Communicative Approach

Ways to Teach Multiple Tenses Using The Communicative Approach | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Teaching multiple tenses is challenging because many students view grammar as boring and therefore, they are not enthusiastic about studying. This puts teachers in a position of having to creatively find ways to make lessons interesting and stimulating. Teaching multiple tenses can be accomplished by using a communicative approach.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Carla K. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

Anticipated Problems

Considering that everyone learns L1 without having to endure boring grammar lessons, it only makes sense that a communicative approach would be worth pursuing. One of the greatest challenges I have encountered is, for example, helping students understand the need to change the verb form when using the third person singular in the simple present tense. Many students say, “He goes to work at 9:00 a.m.” Or, “She plays with her friends every day,” instead of “he goes” and “she plays.”

On the one hand, it seems like teaching the simple present tense should be … well, simple! It is surprising how many students cannot seem to grasp the concept of the third person singular verb change. Furthermore, students who have been speaking incorrectly for a long time have an especially difficult time breaking old habits. In that scenario, it is crucial to help the student develop new habits to help get rid of the old habits.

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Useful Methods

Students can benefit from repeatedly listening to interesting dialogues and stories in a video format. If a student can watch videos that have subtitles, then they are practicing their listening skills as well as their reading skills. Students excel when more than one of the four basic skills are taught at the same time.

Shadowing a native speaker, whether in person or by way of an audio recording, can be very helpful for students to develop an ear for hearing the right way to speak using multiple tenses. By hearing themselves speak English using various tenses, they can more quickly develop an ear for the various tenses. As babies, everyone “shadowed” what their parents said to them and this exercise is helpful for most students.

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Another good way for students to practice multiple tenses is through role-plays where the dialogue includes a good variety of the various tenses. When a student hears the tenses used in context, it becomes more meaningful to them. I have discovered that listening to and repeating dialogues is a good way for students to conquer the challenges of trying to figure out when to use which tense. When a beginner tries to make sense of the difference between the simple present tense and the present progressive, I have found it useful to ask students to watch stimulating conversations that encompass those two tenses.

Interesting stories are another good way to engage students and help them focus on multiple tenses being used in the story. Although it’s good to read stories, I have found it to be more effective for students to listen to stories — especially when the speakers have very good diction.

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I have found that it is very effective to use a variety of resources when helping students learn multiple tenses. Even grammar exercises can sometimes be fun for students, but listening and speaking are more effective in helping students comprehend multiple tenses.

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