Monday, April 23, 2007

Teaching the Present Continuous

The Present Continuous Tense (also called the Present Progressive Tense) is usually one of the first verb tenses ESL students are taught. However, prior to a grammar lesson about the Present Continuous, the irregular verb “to be” must be taught. The verb “to be” is a helping verb (or auxiliary verb) used to form the Present Continuous.

The Present Progressive is formed by combining the helping verb “to be” with the “-ing” (or Present Participle) form of the main verb. For example, “She is dancing.” The Present Participle of the main verb will always be the same, no matter whom or what the subject is. The helping verb will be conjugated depending on whom or what the subject is.

As with teaching all verb tenses, three things are essential to teach students learning English as a Second Language: (1) verb conjugation, (2) verb form, and (3) verb function. (See Fundamentals of Teaching Verb Tenses.)

Present Progressive Verb Conjugation (using miscellaneous common verbs, for example)

1. I am talking. I am walking. I am dancing. I am thinking.
2. You are talking. You are walking. You are dancing. You are thinking.
3. She/He/It is talking. She/He/It is walking. She/He/It is dancing. She/He/It is thinking.
4. They are talking. They are walking. They are dancing. They are thinking.
5. We are talking. We are walking. We are dancing. We are thinking.

Present Progressive Verb Form (five forms the ESL student must learn)

1. Affirmative Usage (e.g., She is talking.)
2. Negative Usage (e.g., She isn’t talking.)
3. Yes/No Question (e.g., Is she talking?)
4. Short Answers (e.g., Yes, she is. No, she isn’t.)
5. WH- Questions (e.g., When is she talking?)

Present Progressive Function (when to use the Present Progressive/Continuous)

The Present Progressive verb tense has two primary functions:

1. To express an activity that is in progress at the moment of speaking. The activity is temporary. It began in the past, is happening right now, and will probably end at some time in the future. (e.g., I am writing an article about verb tenses. She is sleeping on the couch. They are watching television.)

2. To talk about something that is happening generally at this time (during this week, this year, at this time in my life, etc). (e.g., I am creating a website about ESL. She is traveling with friends. He is writing a novel.)

The challenging things about the Present Continuous verb tense for students of English as a Second Language are using the right auxiliary verb (“to do” is often confused in place of “to be”) and knowing when to use the Present Simple or the Present Continuous.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great help! I am new to teaching adults ESL and your succint outline of what they need to know within the tense really helped me sculpt my lesson plan. Thank you!