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Here’s How To Teach Verb Tenses Using Timelines

Timelines are useful tools in teaching verb tenses. Being visual aids, they attract students’ attention and help to introduce and practice verb tenses with ease.

Timelines can illustrate situations and allow a pretty efficient drill of many tenses: Simple past, Present perfect, Past perfect, Simple future, Future perfect, in a context that makes their different meanings mathematically clear.

Introduce Past Simple vs Present Perfect

The following, very complete, “timeline” diagram can do this job.

The diagram may appear complex if drawn in one go. But if it is done in stages the students can be kept involved as you go along.

Start off with the baseline indicating “Last year” and give the information to the students:

“They built 10,000 houses last year.” 

Get the students to repeat this. And then, ask: what about this year?

Elicit a response, either a figure or a sentence using Present Perfect:

“They have built 12, 000 houses”.

Continue to add information, ask questions and elicit answers just by pointing to a figure and with very little verbal intervention at all.

Extend To Introduce The Passive

The drill can be extended, or used on different occasions to cover other moods, the passive, for instance:

“They built a lot of houses last year, 10,000 were built.”

Emphasize the “were built”

“They don’t decorate the houses they build. Another company does that, they have them decorated”

“Last year they had 10,000 houses decorated”

Teach The Progressive Forms

Timeline diagrams can also clarify certain aspects of language, particularly relating to time and tense usage.

The progressive forms are easy to drill, but often the concept itself is less clear.

The following simple timeline diagram, accompanied by the appropriate questions, can clear it up.

“Yesterday morning I worked for three hours. At 10.00 I was working”

It Is Simple, Illustrative & Maintain Interaction

As you can see you don’t need to be an artist to use this kind of diagram which can be done on a black/whiteboard or on a scrap of paper.

The danger of the board is that it can become a distraction, especially if the students are focused on watching the teacher writing on it.

But, in all the above instances the time taken to draw the timeline diagram is minimal and does not interrupt the flow of the lesson.

With this sort of timeline diagram, the teacher can maintain a dialogue with his students at the same time as he is creating his illustrative material.

Thanks For Reading.

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