Most of my students learning English seem to rate their progress in the language, by the amount of tenses they ‘know’. I’ve deliberately put ‘know’ in parenthesis, as the the word seems to have different definition to different learners.
Here are a few definitions:
1. I ‘know’ a tense because I have been shown how it is formed
for example –
I ‘know’ the Present Perfect Simple because I have been shown that the form is:
2. I ‘know’ a tense because I have been shown the form and I’ve understood it
3. I ‘know’ a tense because I have been shown the form, I’ve understood it and I have also been shown when I can use it
4. I ‘know’ a tense because I have been shown the form, I’ve understood it and I have also been shown when I can use it. Then I practised enough situations where I am meant to use the tense, that now I use the tense correctly whenever the need arises.
It goes without saying that the best definition is DEFINITION NUMBER 4.
As teachers we need to help our students achieve all the steps in getting to really ‘know’ the tenses.
Here I would like to propose a good way to achieve STEP NUMBER 3, where you show your students the form, explain to them when they can use a tense and check that they’ve understood, before you get into the practice.
The idea is basically to learn how to draw a Tense timeline, explain one instance (as there could be more) when it is used and finally ask some CONCEPT CHECKING QUESTIONS.
I will try to demonstrate it with one of my Timeline Series Videos – Enjoy!