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terriebittner Feb 17th, 2008 08:46 pm

past tense--absolute beginners
I'm a volunteer teaching an ESL class at church. I have no training, but neither does anyone else available, so I'm it! There is a serious need in our congregation, and long waiting lists for community classes.

I am teaching the absolute beginners--some have no more than five English words in their vocabularies. Most online lessons seem to presume you know the language (we have several languages represented, including Thai) or that the students know rather a lot of English.

How do you get past tense across to students? I am hoping to begin using pictures of scripture stories soon as a foundation for our lessons, since these students attend our church, but I'm finding I am lost as to how to make the stories past tense.

Terrie Bittner

EngliPatrick Feb 17th, 2008 10:45 pm

Re: past tense--absolute beginners
In my personal opinion, I think that real life examples would be better and easier to understand than scripture examples. Yeah, your audience might understand that Jesus multiplied fish and loaves of bread for a whole crowd to eat, BUT I think your students would relate more to using everyday life examples: Jimmy likes eating bread.

As far as how to go about teaching past tense, I would start off introducing simple past tense verbs. Meaning, verbs that only require verb+ed and slowly start introducing the irregular verb (speak --> spoke). You shouldn't totally ignore the irregular verbs because there are about 170ish of them and a lot of them are basic verbs the students will need to know: ride, drive, hear, etc.

As for activities and games, I've got a couple up on my site -- JHS Grammar Verb PastTense. The games are geared for Japanese students but they can easily be tweaked for your students.

I know that doesn't help you too much but it should start you thinking in the right direction. :)

mesmark Feb 18th, 2008 03:22 am

Re: past tense--absolute beginners
I too agree you should start with example in their own lives. I generally start with yes/no questions 'Did you ~, yesterday?' Bring along a calendar, so you can expalin the idea 'yesterday' and then elicit from them either 'Yes.' or 'No.'

Once they have the question and simple answer down, plus exposure to a handful of verbs, then I'd start to form some sentences in the past.

I like to start with 'watch TV' because most people watch TV :P

I always model the example answer 'I watched the news.' and then elicit some answers.

My suggestion is to build some vocabulary and confidence. Don't go too fast and have a good time!

terriebittner Feb 18th, 2008 05:47 am

Re: past tense--absolute beginners
Thank you! It does help a lot. We are starting out with more ordinary conversational words at the start, and using the stories when we can. We had one class and discovered that about 2/3 of the class actually reads English very well--they taught themselves by reading books in two languages. They mostly want auditory and grammar help, so they're being turned over to a bilingual school teacher, leaving us with the real beginners.

It's a little overwhelming, but I am very happy to have the Internet to find ideas for teaching. Thanks for the suggestions!


mesmark Feb 18th, 2008 08:10 am

Re: past tense--absolute beginners
Well, good luck!

I think teaching beginners is much easier than teaching advanced students :D With advanced students it's like trying to fine tune a new Ferrari. With beginners you see a lot of progress in a short time.

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