Language can be complicated, especially for native speakers. We often know what is correct, but not why it is correct. This is a real problem for TEFL teachers. Students are full of questions, and it’s important to know the ins and outs of what we’re teaching. No one wants to pay for a course full of “I don’t know, that’s just what we say.”
Today we’re looking at the present simple.
This tense will be covered in the first unit of nearly every textbook. Even up to upper intermediate level. So, let’s dissect it.
When do we use it?
Present simple is the building block for all other tenses. We use it when we talk about things that are generally true (water boils at 100*C) and habits (I play tennis on Tuesday). We can also use it to express future arrangements, but it’s probably best to not tell your beginner students about this usage right away. It will only confuse them.
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 presenting personal facts? Talking about routines? 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. You can create a board game that has students going around the board saying a prescribed sentence on each space. For example, a space might say “he” with a picture of a golf club and the student will say “He plays golf.” 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 the new language in a more natural way. A survey mingle is great for this. Students can write a question, they’ll then answer questions for other students and practice their short answers, and when they finish they can report on the results.
What problems should I expect?
Students will often struggle with short answers. You’ll likely hear “Yes, I walk.” Explain to them the difference between short and long answers. “Yes, I walk” is correct if it is made into a complete thought “Yes, I walk to work.” Though this is much lesson common than a simple “yes, I do.”
Students may have trouble with the third person s and do vs does. This occurs even in languages where the word changes for different subjects. Be sure to include lots of practice with the third person, not only first person.
Do you have any additional questions about the present simple or how to teach it? Do you have a suggestion for an activity to use in a present simple lesson? Leave a comment!