Before running into the classroom for a grammar lesson, it’s good to have a short refresher about what you’re teaching and how to teach it.
Today we’re continuing our grammar series with the present continuous, aka present progressive. Check out our previous post on the present simple.
This tense is important for differentiating between things we do habitually and things we are doing at the moment. So, let’s dissect it.
When do we use it?
Present continuous has a few uses, but generally, we use it when we’re talking about things that are temporarily true. This can mean things that are happening right now. For example, I’m writing a blog post (at this exact moment). It can also mean things that aren’t happening exactly right now, but around now. For example, I’m learning Spanish (in general, but my textbook isn’t open right this minute).
We can also use it to talk about future plans. This usually happens when something has been decided and planned. For example, I’m eating spaghetti for dinner tonight (and I know this because I bought the ingredients and invited a friend over). You may want to leave that out of your explanation for lower level students. It can be difficult for them to wrap their mind around one tense for two-time frames.
How do we form it?
How can we teach it?
Your lesson plan (or plans) will depend on your class and your other goals. Are your students talking about their lives nowadays? That’s the most common usage of the present continuous, though you may want them to do something else with it. Think about that and how you can get your class to that point.
Generally, you’ll want to include some controlled practice. Your controlled practice activities give students a chance to practice the form. This will likely come from your course book, but there are some games that allow for controlled practice. These exercises are usually decontextualized and don’t do much to help students learn meaning or pronunciation.
Your lesson will also need a freer practice. This gives students a chance to practice a new language in a more natural way. Present continuous lends itself well to charades. You can make up little slips of paper and have students draw one to see what they need to act out, or you can have them use their imagination. The other students then guess what they are doing. For example, Stephanie is sleeping.
What problems should I expect?
Students who are comfortable with the verb be shouldn’t have too many problems with the form.
Students may have trouble with when to use present continuous versus present simple. In this case, you should emphasize the temporary nature of the present continuous. You can also encourage them to look for keywords (that they read or say) like “now” and “at the moment.” These words go with the present continuous rather than the present simple.