Throughout our experience of teaching English in many countries, we have seen students sigh and frown when a new English language tense is about to be introduced. Consequently we have put special effort into providing plenty of practice after introducing the explanation of the grammar. The following paragraphs will briefly discuss the grammar and give some examples of practice activities.
You will want to teach the simple present tense first and provide the students with many practice activities and exercises.
The progressive tenses show that something is happening at a specific time in the present, the past or the future. The future progressive will be discussed in another article.
The present and past progressive tenses use the verb “to be” plus the present participle, which is formed by adding “ing” to the root form of the infinitive.
Past Tense Example: I was walking to town.
Good News! The progressive tense verbs are mostly regular.
go – going, look – looking, be – being
Exceptions: If the root verb ends in one silent “e” then drop the “e” and add “ing”.
Examples: come – coming, drive – driving
Note above: Do not drop the “e” in “to be”
Try this Present Progressive dialogue with your students.
Narrator: Peter arrives at Sarah’s house. She is in another room.
Peter: What are you doing, Sarah?
Peter: Okay, but I’m hungry.
Sarah: Are we eating at 7:00?
Peter: Yes, and it’s 6:45 now.
Narrator: Sarah comes into the room.
Peter: Wow! You’re looking great.
Sarah: Thanks Peter. Are we having Chinese food?
Peter: Sure. Our friends are cooking it now. Can we go?
Sarah: I’m ready and I’m hungry, too.
Past Progressive Tense Activity
Divide into groups of two or three. Ask each other these questions. Check your answers from the box.
2. Were you drinking apple juice this morning?
3. Were you eating a hamburger last night?
4. Are you living across from a church?
5. Are you studying English?
6. Are you living beside your friend?
7. Were you phoning your friend last night?
8. Were you enjoying the theater last week?
Dialogues and activities such as the above give the students practice speaking in a real conversation. They also help the students to forget their fears about verb tenses. Small group conversations and activities facilitate learning while creating an opportunity for fun and laughter. They also provide activities that the students can do with their friends at a later time.