Make it Personal with the Present Simple!
It’s that dreaded word again.“GRAMMAR”. Even thinking the word can give students a chill! It seems like some difficult, abstract thing that sits outside of the fun English they want to learn. In their heads English is fun because it allows them to communicate, but grammar is hard. It must be studied over and over. Grammar is like the vegetables their mothers made them eat when they were young. It is necessary, but unpleasant.
To start with, avoid using the word “grammar”. This is to prevent them developing a complex about it, but also to remind them that grammar is at the heart of all of the English they already know. They use grammar in every sentence they speak and in every sentence they write. So it must be approached softly. We as teachers must “hide the vegetables”. Enable students to produce grammar without them realizing it.
I enjoy asking students what they like to do in their free time, since many students in Asia have busy schedules. Perhaps they answer “I read books”, “I play computer games”, “I cook delicious food”. Without being aware of my goal, they have independently produced one of the most important tenses in English. In fact, the subject of this blog. The PRESENT SIMPLE.
The Present Simple (also known as the Simple Present) is the tense we use to show habits or repeated actions. For example:
I play tennis
I speak English
I study Geography
These are all actions that are repeated. A great way to teach the present simple is to ask about a student’s daily routine. Everyone does some of the same things in one day. For example:
I DRINK WATER
I READ A BOOK
I EAT FOOD
I BRUSH MY TEETH
This can be done with adults and children, since everybody at least drinks, eats, walks and sleeps during one day, so there is material for everyone.
Once students understand the basic idea, demonstrate how it can be used in the negative by asking them questions. For example:
Do you speak French?
Often the student will answer with a short sentence; “No, I don’t”. Make sure to elicit a full sentence from them in response to your question: “I do not speak French”.
Asking questions is the staple of any English Teacher, because it encourages students to produce language independently. But it also allows the Teacher to understand the student better, because they will communicate their interests, hobbies and desires. The Present Simple is great for this because it is about regular patterns in their lives; you will quickly learn more about them and will be able to make your lesson more personal and meaningful.
Lastly, demonstrate how to use the Present Simple in question form. You have already done this, but this time encourage your students to form questions themselves. Often this is challenging for students since they are more accustomed to being asked than doing the asking. Empower your students by allowing them to ask you questions and promise to answer them truthfully! Sharing a little about your own story is useful to building rapport with students over a webcam and is especially relevant here. Maybe your students will ask you “Do you speak Chinese”, “Do you read books”, “Do you brush your teeth”?!
Most students will thrive on this kind of freedom and will commit to the class even more.
There are other uses of the present simple, but these should only be taught to high-level students, and after you are sure they are comfortable with the uses we discussed today.
Thanks for reading and happy teaching!