The Challenge

Most grammar series work with the present simple not just at the lowest levels but at least up to intermediate. At this higher level, teachers may detect a “been there; done that,” feeling. Yet, diagnostics and writing samples often reveal that the students haven’t quite mastered this tense that seems so familiar to them.

The challenge for teachers is to make the present simple fresh and interesting the third time around, or the fourth. One approach might be to step back and take a bigger view of the verb. By the intermediate level, students can usually understand or produce simple-present structures when there is a sharp focus on the verb alone. However, when students have to deal with a more complex text, with their attention dispersed among many sentence features, their handling of simple present verbs may get shaky.

 

Teaching Strategies

One popular teaching strategy is to direct students’ attention to subject-verb agreement issues. But if you take a close look at student problems, you’ll see we need to mix things up sometimes and look on the other side of the verb.

There are plenty of things to learn when we look to the right and not just the left. Transitive verbs, for example, are important but tricky. Their proper deployment comes at the intersection of vocabulary and grammar; what comes after the verb depends on a speaker’s word choice (of the verb itself) and often also on the wider context. Getting this right often involves learning verb + preposition combinations, a task that can be particularly challenging for ear learners.

The following downloadable is designed to practice simple-present verbs but also raise awareness of the transitive/intransitive nature of a few high-frequency verbs. The basic approach could be adapted to other verbs once students get the concept that it is important to learn preposition partners.