Teaching the present simple tense and present continuous (progressive) tense is so important for newcomer ESL students. Because every spoken and written sentence has a verb, students need to quickly learn how to use them in order to create a meaningful sentence.
The first tense students learn is the present simple tense. This lays the foundation for conjugating verbs for appropriate subject-verb agreement. Once students have mastered the present tense of the verb “to be”, they are then ready to learn the present progressive tense as well.
WHAT IS THE PRESENT SIMPLE TENSE?
The present simple tense is used to describe something that is happening now, happens continually (all the time), shows routine, or a fact. It forms the foundation of English language proficiency and helps students communicate basic information about their daily lives. It requires adding s/es to the end of a verb depending on its spelling rule.
WHAT IS THE PRESENT CONTINUOUS TENSE?
The present progressive, or present continuous tense, describes a verb that is happening now. It requires students to conjugate the verb “to be”, as well as add -ing to the end of a verb depending on its spelling rule.
WHY EXPLICITLY TEACH BOTH TENSES?
Teaching both the present tense and present progressive is crucial for ESL students because it provides a well-rounded language foundation. By mastering these two tenses, students can:
- Express Time-Related Ideas: Students learn to convey actions in relation to time, distinguishing between ongoing, habitual, and temporary actions.
- Communicate More Effectively: Understanding both tenses allows students to participate in more nuanced conversations. This gives them the ability to share personal experiences, plans, and observations in a natural and comprehensive way.
- Increase Verbal Proficiency: By grasping these essential tenses, students become more confident in using verbs verbally, which is fundamental for fluency.
- Prepare for Future Tenses: A solid grasp of the present tenses lays the groundwork for learning past and future tenses. This ensures a smoother transition as students advance in their English language studies.
5 ACTIVITIES FOR TEACHING PRESENT SIMPLE AND PRESENT PROGRESSIVE TENSES:
- TARGET WORD LIFT-THE-FLAP FOLDABLE: Students familiarize themselves with common verbs in each tense in this hands-on “quiz” format.
You can have students write the present tense or present continuous verb on the outside of the flap. Then they can draw/paste a picture underneath or use a pre-created lift-the-flap template.
2. SORTS: Students sort verbs based on the rule for their word ending. This is a great hands-on activity for kinesthetic learners. You can create your own sort cards or use pre-created sorts.
Having students sort cut outs that include both the word and an image allows them to build vocabulary while working on an important grammar skill.
3. PRESENT SIMPLE AND CONTINUOUS WORKSHEETS: Sometimes the best activities for practice and reinforcement of a grammar concept are simple, no prep worksheets. These can build in difficulty from activities like matching, to fill-in the blanks and ultimately sentence writing.
4. READING & HIGHLIGHT IN CONTEXT: Students can either use pre-created passages targeting this grammar skill (printable or digital), or any other reading passage at an appropriate reading level.
Students highlight verbs in each of the focus tenses. You can have students work on one verb tense at a time or use a different color for each verb tense. The picture above is a digital version of this activity.
5. WRITE THE ROOM: You can have students use the text in posters, etc already on the walls. You can also place flashcards with the target tense around the room. Students use a clipboard to walk around the room recording the words in one or both focus tenses.
All of the resources for teaching the present simple tense and present continuous tenses to ESL students can be found in the ESL Grammar Bundle.
Looking for more tips for teaching grammar to ESL students? Check out this blog post on Teaching the Verb “To Be” next!