Saturday, April 21, 2007

Teaching the Simple Present Tense (Basics)

The Simple Present Tense (also called the Present Simple Tense) is usually the first verb tense ESL students are taught. Perhaps the most difficult thing for ESL learners to remember is that the Third Person (he/she/it) of a regular verb takes an “s.”

Conjugation of irregular verbs is the second difficult thing about the Present Simple. Very common verbs (e.g., “to be”) do not follow the rules and simply must be memorized.

Three things are essential to teaching any verb tense to students learning English as a Second Language: (1) verb conjugation, (2) verb form, and (3) verb function. (See Fundamentals of Teaching Verb Tenses.)

Present Simple Verb Conjugation of Regular Verbs (using miscellaneous common verbs, for example)

1. I talk. I walk. I dance. I think.
2. You talk. You walk. You dance. You think.
3. She/He/It talks. She/He/It walks. She/He/It dances. She/He/It thinks.
4. They talk. They walk. They dance. They think.
5. We talk. We walk. We dance. We think.

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

1. Affirmative Usage (e.g., She talks.)
2. Negative Usage (e.g., She doesn’t talk.)
3. Yes/No Question (e.g., Does she talk?)
4. Short Answers (e.g., Yes, she does. No, she doesn’t.)
5. WH- Questions (e.g., When does she talk?)

Present Simple Function (when to use the Present Simple)

The Present Simple verb tense has two primary functions:

1. To talk about “general truths,” that is, to talk about something that was true in the past, is true now, and will be true in the future (e.g., The sun rises in the East. Nurses work hard. Water boils at 100 °C.)

2. To talk about habits or rituals (e.g., I pay income taxes every year. She drinks coffee. We watch T.V. all the time. The Giants always lose.)

There is more to teach about the Simple Present verb tense (such as the use of the “helping” or auxiliary verb “do,” irregular verb conjugation, and the use of words such as always, never, often, etc.), but the above are the basics that must be taught.


Rafael said...

Very helpful.

Do you know of any good sites where I can find games or activity samples on how to teach, for example, the simple present?

Name: Debra Garcia, M.A. said...

Hi Rafael,

Since I teach one-on-one, I don't really use games or "activities" with my adult students, so I'd have to go a google search to find the answer. I'm sure there are a ton out there!

Good luck,
P.S. I couldn't write to you directly since I didn't have your email address. You can always use the "Email Me" link towards the end of each page, then I can respond directly.

Meggan said...

Thank you so much for this resource! I'm a newbie ESL tutor, so your site (especially this entry) is really helpful!!

Anonymous said...

There's a game, a bingo, I use on present tense. You can have many questions on a card, funny questions such as 'do you drink cachaça?', 'do you like forró?' (funny questions here in Brazil). Ss have to walk around and find someone who DOES each of those things. One question = one name on the paper. Who finishes says: BINGO! Then the winner (and the other Ss) can read their informations "Clarice takes a bus to work...', "George lives in Brazil...".

I hope it works.
c ya

Anonymous said...

I usually play the alphabet game. I write the alphabet on the board and the students have to say things using the verb LIKE.

I like apples
He likes apples and I like bananas
He likes apples, she likes bananas and I like carrots...

After some letters are done you can ask the student to use the negative form:

I don't like apples
He doesn't like apples and I don't like bananas
He doesn't like apples, she doesn't like bananas and I don't like carrots.

I really works!!!