Tenses - Past, Present and Future



Children have little concept of time. Their lack of awareness often makes me smile. So I know how difficult it is trying to explain the difference between things that have happened, things that are happening now and things that will happen in the future. It's even more difficult for children who are learning to speak English - how do you pass on that abstract idea of time when they have little grasp on the vocabulary?


This is the problem I was faced with last week. I was being interviewed for a new post as EAL (ESL) teacher and had to teach a lesson to secondary children (middle) on choosing the appropriate tense. I knew what I wanted to do but without knowing the level of English each child had, and without being able to speak Polish or Portuguese myself, I was unable to plan in any depth.

I turned to the internet for help. Although there is much wonderful stuff out there on teaching tenses to elementary children, I found it didn't quite hit the mark in this case, as it missed the crucial point - that of how to explain and present past, present and future.

I needed to create a bespoke resource. And I came up with this... A mini lesson based around a weather report and using graphics and colour (key strategies in my language teaching).

Luckily for me, the children all had a basic grasp of the English language..phew! I started by introducing the three bilingual arrow cards - green back arrow for the past, orange down arrow for the present and blue forward arrow for the future.
Then I went on to model how to build sentences for hot weather using "it was...", "it is..." and "it will be...".

We then used these skill for lots of other types of weather. When I was satisfied that they were comfortable with each of the three forms, I gave them some differentiated written work to consolidate what they had learned - past and present forms of weather for mid range abilities, past, present and future for high abilities, and cloze sentence wheels for low abilities.


In practice, it would be very unlikely that teachers would encounter this scenario. After all, we all know the children in our clases and have built up complete pictures of their abilities and gaps. The lesson worked really well and I got the job...!


Please feel free to download all of my resources and lesson plan - they are free. Click on the button above to take you there.

I have kept the flashcards simple and uncluttered, so they will be really easy on your ink cartridges... If you would like the flashcards in different languages, please get in touch and I will be happy to oblige. I'd also love to know what you think if you have a moment to leave me a quick line.


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