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teaching the past progressive 
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Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2006 10:46 am
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Post teaching the past progressive
I have a few really good activities to teach the past progressive and I have some students who are ready to move in that direction. However, in the grand scheme of things, how important do you think the past progressive is? My problem is that beyond teaching it, I can't find much use in it for my students. This is really directed toward children's classes. Adults tend to want to form similar sentences to L1 and they will use it if it's taught but children tend to work within what they were taught.

Once you've taught the past progressive, what else do you do with it? How does it work itself into your students' usable language?

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Tue Jun 20, 2006 9:11 am
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Well I think the past progressive makes compositions more interesting.e.g.
It was raining hard when I got out of the house.
They were all staring at me. It made me feel uncomfortable.

Every activity that you do with the present progressive can be done with the past progressive as well. I mean present, past and future progressive are part of a tense system. When we use the present progressive we know exactly the time, it is now, which can be checked on a watch. The same thing is true for the past and future progressive. Yesterday at this time I was having an English class, next week at this time I will be having an English class. Of course the moment can be defined by another action that you remember, e.g. when the phone rang, when daddy came home, when daddy gets home, when the film starts etc.

So what do I do with the past progressive? After plenty of drills and practice using your flashcards, I get them to write postcards. I print postcards from the www.webshots.com from different parts of the world, more than the students in the class, so that early finishers will have something to do, I also give each of the students a handout with leading questions, that will prompt them to use the different tenses learnt so far, but in sort of a realistic context, writing to a friend from holidays. I let them write their postcards downpage from the picture, I collect them and correct them, then the next time I give them a handout that resembles the backside of a real postcard, with stamp, and lines for writing the address as well. They copy the corrected postcards and then they cut out the picture and the backside of the postcard with the writing and then glue them one next to the other on blue paper, the kind you buy by the meter.which we then post on the wall. Since each child has been given a different picture, the rest of the class are interested in looking at the other pictures and reading the other children's cards. They then are asked to vote for the best written postcard and the winner is awarded a diplome, or given a bar of chocolate or something.

After different holidays I ask them to write a letter to a friend describing their holiday. Again leading questions help them use the tenses learnt so far.


Wed Jul 12, 2006 6:59 pm
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Once you've taught the past progressive, what else do you do with it?

That’s a good question! And if we could do away with the progressive form, would we? Other languages get along fine without it. But because English has it, it’s impossible to skip over.
You wrote: “Adults tend to want to form similar sentences to L1”
I’m afraid I don’t know what L1 means.
There is no progressive form in German, so it’s always a hurdle when explaining since there is so little to latch onto. Adults do ask, though, always, “Why is there an “–ing”? Usually, they come across it while reading.
Trying to keep my explanation short (hard for me!) and simple, I attempt to give the students a basic idea of when we use the progressive form. If they can somehow grasp onto a general idea, then they won’t be quite so baffled each time they encounter it. Otherwise, they feel like they are running head-first into a wall. My students are adults. Children might bounce back more easily.
Some students catch on sooner, and slide from understanding it into using it. Others taptaptap along, preferring the simple form. Unless there is a drastic change in the meaning of the sentence, I like to let them approach it at their own individual tempo. It’s strange teaching two different groups of grown-ups at such different levels. One group hasn’t even begun the progressive form, and the other group had it years ago. All I can say is, time seems to iron out the wrinkles. At first it is such a puzzler, but later, much later, the students find their way inside, and begin using it on their own.
From what I’ve seen, some students are more gifted in one area, for example, reading comprehension, while others prefer orally experimenting. I’ve got some students who resemble airplane propellors --- their extremities are flapping that wildly. Students discover different entry ways into a foreign language. I think it is similar to different streams flowing together into a larger river.

You asked “How does it work itself into your students' usable language?” I think it works itself in almost automatically, but very, very slowly if the mother tongue has no progressive form. I’m afraid we have to tackle it because it is there. Until the progressive form is banished, they will keep asking that “Why –ing?” question. We hope to provide a small foundation that they can build upon. They do. It just takes a little time, and eventually you see the river flowing. It takes you by surprise.


Fri Jul 14, 2006 3:56 pm
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Post ps
I'm ps-ing the post I just posted:
Of course, by automatically, I don't mean without any help at all. For one, we did do past progressive exercises, stuff like that. I'd make sentences, leaving a dotted line for the tense, and they would supply the (hopefully) correct form of the given verb. To make it less mundane, I wrote up my own sentences, using the students' names as the main characters. I tried to put in slashes of humor, and they'd all end up laughing about the bizarre examples. So, I guess the past progressive came in the back door.


Fri Jul 14, 2006 4:17 pm
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hmmmmm....

I teach present progressive first. Then we work our way into the past. After that I add in the future. With my longest running group we have covered all of that and started some past passive verbs using the Ouch sets here.

I'm affraid that I'll need to tach the 'when' clause and past progressive together and have been dreading the mountain I feel I have to climb over.

When I came home, he was watching TV.

I'm thinking I will introduce it over a few weeks before I even start with production from the students. My plan is to mine several actions in sequence and drop colored balls from my pocket at different times.

Mime cooking and half way through drop a red ball. The mime driving to the store and drop a blue ball half way through...

Then ask the students what was I doing when I dropped the red ball.

Ss: 'Cooking.'
Mark: Right! I was cooking. When I dropped the red ball I was cooking.

My problem is I use my non-grammar method and I might just have to buckle and start with the grammar instruction. We'll see

*********************************************
L1 is language one or Japanese in my students' case

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Fri Jul 14, 2006 4:54 pm
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That ball-dropping sounds fun. I'd like to borrow it.
Later you could add ten kids, each miming something else: taking a shower, digging, feeding the chickens (feeding the chickens is a hard mime :wink: ), etc, and your cellphone rings, or something bongs, and you ask each kid: What were you doing? or you ask someone who has been watching: What was he/she doing when the gong bonged?

Yesterday I was mulling over an idea of using short skits to show the difference between, for example:
When the phone rang, I was taking a shower.
and
When the phone rang, I took a shower.

There's probably a way to do it, but unfortunately, there are so many hooks along the way (yes, but it wouldn't work in that situation :x ..... etc) that I shelved it again. Better to keep it simple.


Fri Jul 14, 2006 5:42 pm
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"My problem is I use my non-grammar method "...
Actually, you're probably lucky not to be shackled to/by grammar. My adults in Austria tend to compare English to German, and often ask for the grammatical reasons behind why we say things as we do. Or, they have these flimmering memories of a few words they picked up post-war. One gentleman told me I say the word "the" incorrectly. You see? So, I envy your wide-open, start completely fresh, position.


Fri Jul 14, 2006 6:14 pm
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I did something on the fly this past monday that worked out well. After presenting the basic structure, (I just wrote a couple of sentences on the board and helped them understand the meaning) I used the idea of a crime and mystery that had to be solved. I grabbed a deck of cards and took one card for every student and included one for myself. One card was a joker another was a king and the rest were random. I instructed them that the king is the dectective a the joker is the criminal. Whoever got the king had to investigate the crime and everyone had to give an alibi. The criminal had to give and aliby that for some reason didn't add up.

Detective target sentence:
"Where were you and what were you doing last night at 7:05?"

Alibis
"I was at home having dinner"
"I was at the mall buying a cd"
"I was playing soccer at my friend's house"
"I was at the bakery waiting in line"

Criminal Alibi
"I was at the dollar store, taking a shower"


The detective had to guess the guilty party. Every once in a while someone who is innocent "get's arrested" because they gave a response that didn't line up.

It was fun.

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Fri Nov 03, 2006 1:58 pm
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