Oct 11

The present is far from perfect....

A grammar practice activity...

Idea for present perfect practice....

Co-Vid has had serious consequences of course, and we have to be sensitive and aware of how we deal with this in class, but it's a good topic in many ways. It's current and universal.... and unfortunately, it's ongoing, making it fertile ground for present perfect practice.....
You know that you need more of a life outside of English teaching when you see an opportunity for a grammar lesson in a pandemic situation… so maybe I need more of a life outside of English teaching!

I’m Jo Gakonga from ELT-Training and here’s a nice idea for practising the present perfect for unfinished time or time up to now with a personalised edge that will really motivate your learners to speak.

The present perfect is a notoriously tricky tense. The overarching meaning of standing in present time and looking back into the past doesn’t exist in many languages and there are lots of quirks and different nuances of it that make it difficult. One of the contexts in which it’s used are when we are talking about a time that hasn’t finished yet (today, this week, this year) and also about actions that started in the past and are still happening now. So, unfinished TIME and unfinished ACTIONS.

An example might be -I’ve cleaned the bathroom three times this week!- the cleaning has finished, but the time hasn’t. Or I’ve lived here for three years (and I still do)- unfinished action.

It’s not always easy to find a good context for generative practice of this, but the Co-Vid situation is a major event that has affected everyone and it’s still ongoing, unfortunately. This at least provides fertile ground for practice of both of these uses of the present perfect. I should say at this point that (as with any difficult topic) you need to know your learners. If someone has lost a loved one to the disease, or experienced hardship that they might not want to share, this could be really upsetting, so be sensitive to this.

Start by giving a context- how your life has changed during the Co-Vid pandemic, perhaps – or find a blog post on the net (there are lots of these out there – just Google it). Use some examples from the text or your story to revise the language and you could give them some controlled practice exercises to differentiate between the present perfect and the simple past:

At the beginning of lockdown I have felt/ I felt really depressed.
During the pandemic, my life has really slowed down/ my life slowed down.

Now give them three sentence stems:
During the Co-Vid situation, my social life has/ hasn’t changed because….
During the Co-Vid situation, my family life has/ hasn’t changed because….
During the Co-Vid situation, my work life has/ hasn’t changed because….

Give them a few minutes to complete the sentences and check as they are writing (you can do this on a Google doc if you’re online). Now tell them that they are going to find out information from two different people to find out whose life has changed the most and how.

You could give out a grid like this if you like:

Name 1 2
Social life

Family life

Work life


Put them in pairs (in a BOR if online) and give them enough time to ask each other the questions. You could specify a time (maybe 5 minutes each -10 minutes together). Tell the listening partner to write notes (on a Google doc, perhaps, so that you can monitor) and ask follow up questions.
After 10 minutes, you could do some delayed error correction and then swap partners (rearrange the BORs if online) and repeat. Giving them a chance to say the same thing again with a new partner (who hasn’t heard it before and so is interested) is a great way to focus on accuracy and really useful when learning a language.

If you wanted to extend the speaking and grammar practice even further, you could swap them again and they can tell their new partner about whose life has changed most and why before you do a class round up.

So there you have it- an easy to prepare and very useful grammar practice lesson on the present perfect with lots of opportunity for personalised fluency and freer practice. Hope that it goes as well for your class as it did for mine 😊

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