Oh my goodness, I’ve been completely obsessed with this tense these past few weeks. Even though my students are studying a B2 level, they still seem to have problems when talking about past events, especially those related to their own lives. It might be because they are so focused on telling their own real stories that grammar tends to be forgotten. It might or it might not. The thing is that I find myself constantly reminding them not to slip to present tenses. I have used several techniques but none of them seem to be working.
You might think I am a bit nuts here but when I have some time to kill, I sometimes find myself thinking about my students’ problems with the language and trying to devise new games or strategies to help them overcome their difficulties.
This strategy came to my mind on my way to Marbella to run a workshop. The plane was delayed by an hour and I had some time to kill. The technology I have used to display the prompts is one that I often use, but the idea for the layout sprang from seeing one of the teachers in the workshop work with Spark Adobe Page ( thanks Monica Redondo). Obviously, you don’t need technology to do this activity but it looks so much nicer!!
Aim: to help students avoid making the mistake of using the present simple when talking about past events.
This engaging past simple activity requires that students help each other fixing the very common mistake of switching to the present tense when talking about events, situations or anecdotes related to their pasts.
In this activity, students work in pairs. Display the first prompt. Student A will talk while Student B will listen. Every single time, Student A slips to the present simple when referring to the past, Student B will stop him by saying: ” Hey! Hold on!”
At this point, student A will need to start again.
Points: every time the student needs to start again, he will score -1 point :(.
Fun: every time a student slips to the present simple, he will have to quickly stand up and sit down 🙂 This also allows you, as a teacher, to see who needs more help.
Allow about 3 minutes and emphasize that even though they don’t make a mistake, they’ll need to talk for the entire three minutes. This will prevent stronger students from finishing before the 3 minutes are over and will challenge them to keep talking by elaborating on their stories.
When the three minutes are over, display a new prompt and ask Student B to do the talking and Student A to help him by paying close attention to the tenses he uses and stopping him using the “Hey! Hold on” technique.
After both Student A and B have talked, ask them to stand up and choose a new partner. Display a new prompt and repeat procedure.
This week’s post was not supposed to be a grammar post, it just so happened to turn out like that. Come to think of it, I have been teaching lots of grammar lately so I shouldn’t be surprised if my brain is filled with ideas for grammar teaching.
If I want my classes to be different from the ones I had when I was studying English at school (teacher-centred and book-centred), I cannot introduce all those digital tools I’m so keen on using and then go and spoil it all by asking students to read straight from a photocopy when it comes to grammar. I’m not saying it’s the wrong way to go about it, I’m just saying it’s not the way I teach or the way I’d like to be taught.
Admittedly, grammar is grammar, but can we make it a bit more appealing to our students?
Reported speech is probably one of my favourite grammar points and this is how I have introduced reported speech statements, questions and orders in my classes this week.
To introduce statements I often use quotes from famous people. The presentation you’ll see below is one I often use as my students, for the most part, are adults. But if you’re teaching teenagers, you can easily change the people in the slides and use celebrities they can relate to.
So the idea is to play the presentation, read the quote and then ask: “What did Marilyn say?” Guide students through the changes in reported speech and then show the second slide where the reported sentence is displayed.
I’ve been introducing reported speech questions in this way all my teaching career. The reason? Students collaborate from minute one and this is something I treasure.
I tell the students my son Daniel is 4 years old and he’s always asking questions. With all the drama I can muster I tell them that yesterday I got home really tired and wanted to rest a bit but my son Daniel had other plans for me and could not stop asking questions.
I draw on the board a boy and I call him Daniel and a woman and I call her Cristina- my name. I draw a big bubble next to Daniel and I ask students to guess what sort of questions he might have asked me. As they provide the questions I write them inside the speech bubble making sure there is a variety of wh- and yes/no questions and a variety of tenses. Once the questions have been written, I go on telling them that when my husband got home I was lying on the sofa with an ice pack on my forehead and looking dead tired -remember drama is important- and when he enquired why I was so tired I told him all about my day and how I couldn’t rest because Daniel had asked all those questions.
He asked me why I was smiling
He wanted to know if he could watch cartoons.
INTRODUCING REQUESTS AND ORDERS.
To introduce request and orders I write inside a circle on the board
First day instructions
and ask students to try to remember some of the instructions I gave them on the very first day in class. Encourage them to tell you the exact words I used. They will probably say:
Put your mobiles on silent mode
Don’t be late.
Change partners regularly.
Don’t forget to bring your workbook
Write them on the board and choose a student who couldn’t attend that first day.
Tell students they now need to inform this student of the instructions I gave this very first day.
The teacher told us to use English in class
Cristina told us not to forget to bring our workbook
Hope it’s helpful! You might also be interested in this other post
I must be doing something wrong. On second thought, perhaps my students are doing something wrong.
Do you know when your mum tells you off over and over again for not tidying your room and you just nod your head, promise it will never happen again and then, for some unknown reason, you seem unable to keep your promise? My students do it all the time. It’s called being nice. They are very nice, but being nice won’t help them pass exams.
So, you highlight the mistake, explain why it is a mistake, ask students if they have understood, they nod their head and say they do, you elicit some examples and give them exercises to consolidate and when you think you have seen the last of this mistake, here it is again, sticking its tongue out at you.
Below you’ll find a quiz with some of these very persistent mistakes students at intermediate level, and probably above, make.
This is how I suggest you do this quiz
Do the quiz. Obviously 🙂
Read the grammar and do the exercises when provided.
For spelling mistakes: try to remember the words commonly misspelt featured in the quiz and write them down with the correct spelling.
Grammar mistakes: Do you remember the mistakes? Can you remember why they were wrong? Write a sentence for each of the mistakes you can remember.
Do the quiz again and correct your own sentences and the spelling of the words now.
Were there any grammar or spelling mistakes you could not remember? Repeat numbers 3, 4 and 5.
“Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets”. Arthur Miller.
Hopefully! I surely have had my fair share of mistakes, and consequently a few regrets too although to be honest, I don’t really know if the are of the right kind. There are a couple of things, or maybe more, that I would probably have done differently if given the chance but…. this is now water over the bridge and it’s no use crying over spilt milk! What about you? Do you have any regrets?
Let’s talk about regrets today.
Aim: to teach students how to express regrets using the structures I wish/if only
Lead in: Play this 45-second audio clip and ask students to try to identify the next structure you are going to teach them.
1. I WISH (THAT)/IF ONLY+SIMPLE PAST
Introducing: display the picture below and draw students’ attention to the reflection of the man in the mirror. Ask: What does the old man see in the mirror? What is he thinking?
Listen to the students’ suggestions and use each of them to introduce
I wish (that)/if only + simple past
I wish/if only I was younger or I wish I was in my twenties.
I wish/if only I was handsome or I wish I was stronger… etc
Explaining the grammar: we use this structure to express a desire for a situation that does not exist right now in the present. A wish is a desire to change a real situation into an unreal one. This unreal situation is expressed in the simple past. In a wish sentence, the simple past does not indicate past time; it only indicates that the situation is unreal.
That is optional.
I wish/if only I lived in the countryside, but I don’t. I live in a city.
Were is used for both singular and plural subjects in a formal context
I wish/if only he were younger, but he’s not. He is old.
Practising. Guided practice.
Students look at the pictures and make a sentence using “wish”. Flip them to see a possible answer.
2. The power of music. A meditation activity.
Ask students to close their eyes. Turn off the lights, close windows and play some soft music to create the right atmosphere and help them relax. Tell them you are going to ask them some questions about themselves. Use a low, slow, soothing voice. They will need to imagine how they would answer the question using the structure I wish/if only + past tense. Read out the questions one by one, take your time and remember to keep your voice slow and calm.
If you could change something in your body, what would it be?
If you could change something about your personality, what would you change?
If you could change anything about your job, what would it be?
If you could change something about you partner, what would it be?
If you could change something about your life, what would it be?
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
Practising. Freer practice.
Students in pairs talk about their anwers to the questions above. Let them choose the ones they want to talk about as some answers could be a bit personal.
2. I WISH (THAT)/IF ONLY+ WOULD
Introducing: display the picture below and ask students to describe what they see.
Now, ask students to provide a sentence with “wish” about the picture. At this stage, students will probably suggest “She wishes he didn’t see so much TV”.
Draw students’ attention to the girl’s mood and offer this alternative sentence
She wishes/if only he wouldn’t watch so much football
Explaining grammar: the structure wish+ (that)/if only +would is used to talk about what other people do that annoys or irritates us and that we wish was different.
Practising. Guided practice.
Play the video and ask students to make sentences based on the pictures using I wish+would.
Practising. Freer Practice.
Students in pairs answer these questions:
What annoys you about living where you live now?
What annoys you most about living at home with your family?
What annoying habits does your best friend have?
What is the most annoying thing about your partner?
Is there anything about your teacher that annoys you? 🙂
3. I WISH/IF ONLY + (THAT) + PAST PERFECT
Introducing. Display the picture below and ask: do you think he has any regrets?
Elicit: He wishes he hadn’t drunk so much or he wishes he hadn’t danced so much
Photo by JeanJulien
Explaining the grammar:
We use ‘wish’ + past perfect to talk about regrets from the past. These are things that have already happened but we wish they had happened in a different way.
Practising. Guided Practice.
Introduce the activity by asking students to think back to the time when they were teenagers. Ask them if they have any regrets.
For example: I wish I hadn’t given up my studies.
Tell students they are going to watch a video of a song Mistakes of my Youth by the American rock band Eels. In this video, the singer thinks back on his childhood and all the things he did wrong. Ask them to watch the video and write down as many I wish/if only + past perfect sentences they can think of based on the video.
What are your regrets when you think back on your life? Make a list of three regrets and tell the story to your partner.
Writing a dialogue. Working in pairs, the students should write a conversation among two friends who are complaining about their boyfriends/girlfriends or bosses. Tell them to use as many I wish/if only sentences as possible. Ask students to act it out.
Writing about being the opposite gender. Ask students to write a compositions about how their lives would be different if they were the opposite sex. Ask them to use I wish/ if only sentences
Discussion about cultural customs. Lead a class discussion about what customs in their country wish were different.
In case you haven’t figured it out by now , I am kind of a very-much-into-games teacher, but this doesn’t mean that everything in my classes is fun. I would be lying to you. I wouldn’t dare say a large part, but a significant part of my classes, is dedicated to teaching “boring” stuff, which might be dull, but necessary; and I think my students would agree here.
One of these boring, yet interesting, parts of the lesson today will be dedicated to fixing mistakes from their written assignments.
One of the most common mistakes students make and that can be easily fixed is with the verb “want”.
The verb “want” is probably one of the first verbs we learn in English and the simple structure “I want to go” or “she wants to buy” poses no problem. But as become more fluent in the language ,we risk trying more complex sentences and this is where “want” becomes tricky.
THE TRICKY “WANT”
Read the sentence below and decide whether it’s right or wrong.
Do you want that I give you a lift home?
If you think it’s wrong, then you’re right 🙂 and you might want to stop reading this post now. Hey! I wouldn’t blame you! But, if you can’t see why the sentence above is incorrect, then dear reader, this post is right for you and here’s the explanation
“want” is not followed by a “that clause”. Instead we use an object+ infinitive structure. So,
Look at how we introduce the subjectafter the verb ” to want”:
Some other common verbsthat can be followed by object+infinitve are: advise, allow, ask, encourage, forbid, intend, invite, need, persuade, recommend, teach, warn, tell, cause…etc.
“Want” can also mean ” need”in informal English. We can say that a thing “wants” (meaning “needs”) something, in particular with reference to actions.In this case, “want” is followed by an -ing form.
♥ Those windows need cleaning (= needs to be cleaned)
♥ This floor needs sweeping (= needs to be swept)
You can also say :
♥ Those windows need to be cleaned
♥ This floor needs to be swept
Test your knowledge with this translation exercise (sentences in Spanish, sorry!)
Raise your hand if you have never had a problem! Nobody??? Good! That’s what I thought! Now, raise your hand if you have never asked for advice!! I see !! OK ! Maybe some of you don’t like to ask for advice!!
Ok folks !!! What’s clear is that we all have problems and and when we have them, we most usually turn to friends or family asking for advice; it remains to be seen whether we follow the advice but even if we end up feeling that the advice given hasn’t helped much, I’m sure, at least, you would feel grateful just because someone you trust has been willing to take the time to listen to you.
In this post, I want to share with you an activity to practise giving advice, which has worked really well with my students (see photo below)
AIM:to give written advice using
♥I think / I don’t think you should…
♥ If I were you , I would…
MATERIALS: A clean sheet of paper and a pen or you can download the template here.
1. Introduce / revise the two structures above, used to give advice. Share with your students a problem and ask them to offer you advice using the two structures above. Choose the funniest or most sensible advice as the best offered.
2. Give students a copy of I NEED SOME ADVICE or display the template so that they can copy the information on a clean sheet of paper.
2. Students write their name and their problem in the space provided and leave it on their table, face up.
3. Introduce the idea of Agony Aunts ( see definitonhere) and tell students they are going to act as agony aunts to solve some problems.
4. Students stand up and they go around the class reading their classmates’ problems and writing their piece of advice in the space provided, together with their name inside the brackets. The same advice cannot be repeated. Allow 10 minutes for this step
5. Students sit down at their desks, read the advice offered for their problems and decide on the best. Problem and advice will be read aloud. The students who has offered the best advice gets one point. See who gets more points and name him the new Agony Aunt.