This report was compiled to examine Simple Present Tense (SPT) use with beginner ESL students, aged 7-10 years old, attending Primary school. Ideally class sizes consist of 5-10 students, all L2 learners. The purpose and structure of SPT is highlighted. SPT differences with other languages and SPT difficulties faced by ESL students are outlined. SPT activities from introductory lessons through to higher proficiency have been discussed.
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Definition of Simple Present tense: The tense of a verb that expresses action or state in the present time and is used of what occurs or is true at the time of speaking and of what is habitual or characteristic or is always or necessarily true, that is sometimes used to refer to action in the past, and that is sometimes used for future events (Merriam-Webster, 2003, pg.982).
These are not so much the meanings of the simple tenses themselves as the meanings which they gain in particular contexts. It is only the tense plus the context which can be said to express a certain temporal or aspectual meaning such as repetition, habit, or generality. The tenses themselves do not carry such specific meanings. If they did, then context would not be necessary for interpreting the time reference of a verb (Pennington, 1988, pg.).
Simple Present tense is used to discuss:
Repeated actions and express the idea that an action is usual. The action can be a hobby, a daily occurrence, a scheduled event or something that happens regularly e.g. I play soccer. It can also be something a person often forgets or usually does not do e.g. She never goes on holidays. ‘Habitual’ is a common term used to describe the meaning of this term, which has come under scrutiny. What constitutes habitual action is determined completely by experience, and not at all by language – especially not by the tense of the verb (Pennington, 1988, pg.53).
Facts or generalisations It indicates that the speaker believes that a fact was true before (past), is true now (present), will be true in the future e.g. Spiders have eight legs and is timeless. It is also used to make generalizations about people or hings e.g. Vanessa is boring (Pennington, 1988, pg.53).
Past and Future events Simple present is used to talk about the past or future and is described in a very immediate way, bringing the past or future into the present, including them as part of the present reality of the speaker and the hearer.
As pointed out by Brown and Levinson (1978), shifting to the present tense is a way to show deference and positive regard towards the hearer, making a good story which pulls [the hearer] right into the middle of the events being discussed, metaphorically at any rate, thereby increasing their intrinsic interest…; (p. 111). (Pennington, 1988, pg.52)
Structure of Present Simple sentences
I base He
You form She verb + S
We of It
(+) Subject + verb + … (+) Subject + verbS + …
(-) Subject + DON’T + verb + … (-) Subject + DOESN’T = verb +…
(?) DO + subject + verb + … (?) DOES + subject + verb + …
(WH)WH Q + DO + subject + verb +.. (WH) WH Q + DOES + Subject + verb +
WHO + verbS WHO + verbS
When you add “S” to the verb you have to pay attention to spelling.
1. think + s
2. catch + es
When the verb ends with “s”, “sh”, “ch”, “x”, “z” or “o” we add “es”.
3. stay + s
fry ƒ fries
Description of differences between English and Korean
Korean language is spoken by 60 million people in North and South Korea. With an additional 5 million emigrants speaking the language worldwide in China, Japan, North America, and the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Renaud, 2002, pg.1).
The phonetic system, the syntactic structure, and semantics between English and Korean differ so greatly that the transition from one language to the other requires enormous efforts from the learner. More specifically, in relation to simple present tense, Korean learners typically struggle with the following disparities:
In English, the word order is SVO (subject-verb-object), while the basic pattern of a Korean sentence is SOV (subject-object-verb). Although Korean has case-marking morphemes to designate the cases of the nouns and shows a more flexible word order, the predicate always comes at the end of a sentence (Cho, 2004, pg.33). In Korean the subject of the sentence is left out if it can be implied by the context, whilst in English, sentences need explicit subjects (Worldlingo, 2011).
In Korean language new words are created by combining simple words, without changing their form (agglutinative). Words are created by adding suffixes to the basic part of the word (stem). Suffixes attached to a verb stem indicate things such as verb tense (past, present, or future), verb aspect (complete, repeated, or continuing), and honorification (marking of the relative status of the person addressed to or referred to from the speaker or addresser’s point of view-an elder, a stranger, a close friend) (Renaud, 2002, pg.4).
In English the following third person pronouns are commonly used – he, she, it, her, him (singular) and they, them (plural) .
In Korean there are two third person pronouns used, male and female; the female form sounds awkward, and is mostly used when translating texts. Korean originally had only one third person pronoun for both genders, meaning “it”. However it has increasingly been interpreted as a “male” pronoun used for both genders. Although in recent years the pronoun the female counterpart is slowly gaining ground due to the influence of translations from European languages, it is almost restricted to specific styles of written language, because Korean generally uses subject less or modifier + noun constructions (Worldlingo, 2011).
Generally forms used to denote third person in Korean are not separate lexical items, but rather are formed by combining the demonstrative pronouns ‘i’ = this, ‘ku’ =that and ‘ce’ =that (over there), with bound nouns. The deictic use depends on the distance between the referent and the speaker. They indicate respectively, close proximity, middle proximity and distant proximity (Iksop, Ramsey, 200, pg.90,91).
In Korean verbs in the present tense do not take ‘-s’ in the third person singular. Korean learners of English commonly fail to ensure there is subject-verb agreement, by missing inflected endings in writing and speaking (Cho, 2004, pg.33).
Many Koreans repeat the question-answer format of Korean negative questions when communicating in English. To the question, “Didn’t you like it?” English speakers answer either, ‘Yes, I did” or, “No, I didn’t,” whilst Koreans generally respond either “Yes, I didn’t like it,” or “No, I liked it.” Native English speakers are generally perplexed by Koreans amalgamation of positive and negative elements of discourse. Korean students also experience fossilization problems when attempting to express conditionals, indirect questions, rhetorical questions and hypothetical statements, as a result of first language interference (Cho, 2004, pg.33).
Clearly, the difficulties Korean learners have in learning English are not limited to just Koreans. Students of any nationality may experience difficulties due to language difference, culture gaps, and the discrepancy between their language ability and their overall maturity(Cho, 2004, pg.36).
Difficulties simple present tense poses to learners
Parrott (pg.195, 2010) and Wee (pg.35, 36, 2009) outline the subsequent issues, as characteristic and typical difficulties learners face with simple present tense.
Omitting ‘third person s’ / Omitting auxiliary verbs
Errors of omission consist of the omission of compulsory elements in tense or number markers such as the omission of the grammatical morphemes. These include the omission of ‘-s/-es/-ies’ for the verbs after the third person singular in the simple present tense. The copula ‘be’ verb is often omitted in the simple present and simple past well as the progressive tenses (WEE, 2009, pg.351).
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Addition of Unnecessary Elements
Unnecessary elements that are present result in errors of addition, for example, the use of redundant tense markers. Students may put ‘-s,-es,-ies’ markers after the verbs that follow the plural nouns/pronouns in the simple present tense or redundantly put the ‘-ed’ marker in cases where it is not necessary, for example, ‘cuted, puted’ (WEE, 2009, pg. 352).
Double marking occurs when two items are marked for the same feature such as tense, for example, ‘My neighbour doesn’t likes Mary.’ or ‘The thief didn’t ran away when I shouted.’ Students may redundantly add ‘-s’, ‘-ed’ or ‘-ing’ forms to the verb after a modal which should be followed by the base form of a verb (WEE, 2009, pg. 352).
Incorrect tense choice
Errors of misformation occur when students choose the wrong forms of the words in place of the right ones. These commonly happen in cases of subject-verb agreement, for example, “The men was here last night.” The wrong tense may be used, for example, the use of the past tense forms to express present or future time or the use of the present tense forms to refer to past actions (WEE, 2009, pg. 352).
Questions and Indirect Speech
Students are often confused when they use reported questions or indirect speech resulting in the occurrence of errors of ordering. This means that the correct elements are wrongly sequenced, for example, ‘They asked me where was the girl.’ Students face a lot of difficulties in using the phrasal verbs and may produce sentences like “I pick up her.” or “I phone up him.” (WEE, 2009, pg. 352)
Questions and negative forms
Errors arise from several possible general sources, namely interlingual errors of interference from the native language, intralingual errors within the target language, the sociolinguistic context of communication, psycholinguistic and cognitive strategies, along with countless affective variables (Brown,1980: 66).
Level students are taught simple present tense and through which contexts and topics.
Effectively teaching simple present tense verbs to ESL students helps to build a strong foundation for their use of the English language. The simple present tense is usually the first verb tense ESL students are taught (Teaching ESL to Adults).
Students learn best when they feel safe yet challenged, when responses are accepted yet extended, and when expectations are realistic yet high. Teachers can assist by teaching explicitly within context and providing varying levels of support as students become increasingly independent and how it changes in different situations (BOS NSW, 2000, pg.8). ESL learners need an explicit, methodical and planned language program that is integrated into their general class work in all key learning areas, and that takes into account their needs and development (BOS, NSW, pg.13).
English language teachers have changed, or are changing, from a traditional approach to teaching formal grammar rules to a more communicative approach to teaching how to use grammar meaningfully in context. Communicative approaches to presenting grammar usually include a focus on meaning and use as well as form. Grammar can be taught in many ways – there is no ‘best’ way that suits all grammar points (Gardener, 2008, pg.39).
Students are introduced to simple present tense at school (K-6) through numerous curriculum topics – English, Human Society and Its Environment (HSIE), Science and Technology. Students use specific text types to practice usage of simple present tense. Each text type uses different language and grammatical features. These features are outlined in Table 1.2. This table indicates primary use of simple present tense in Report writing. In addition, Parrot (2000, pg.190), identifies past narratives and commentaries as other instances in which the simple present tense is also used.
Reports and narratives are focus texts (structure, grammar and context) in the English K-6 syllabus. Grammar is used as a tool to help students understand how sentences are structured so that they are meaningful, clear and syntactically accurate (BOS NSW, pg.9).
Reports are also commonly used in the following Key Learning Areas (KLA’s) – HSIE – Significant events and people, Cultural Diversity (BOS NSW, 2006) and in Science and Technology – Living Things, Earth and It’s Surroundings (BOS, 1993, pg.10). The HSIE and Science and Technology syllabus highlight activities that essentially require the use of language. Students use language to pose questions, clarify ideas and communicate understandings (BOS, 1993, pg.27).
Describe activities you could use for simple present tense
The way in which the verb tenses are introduced can make the structure of the English Language easier for the students to understand. Whereas pre-teen and early teen children learn a language by listening and repeating what they hear, without any need to think about grammar, this facility seems to fade as everyone gets older. The older a student is the more he or she will want to analyze the structure or learn using rules. Unfortunately many rules for the English language have exceptions – sometimes many exceptions (Stocker D&G, 2011).
Activities in a & b require more direct, explicit instruction through discussion, modeling and controlled activities. Whilst ‘c’ requires more implicit instruction and allows students to apply knowledge of tense in meaningful ways, through less controlled activities. Activities are conducted independently, in pairs and as a whole class, using verbal, auditory, visual, written and kinesthetic activities. Activities are implemented across all KLA’s in the NSW K-6 curriculum.
Introducing simple present
Introductory activities- Define simple present tense to students, the structure and forms which it can take (positive, negative, yes/no, questions -wh) and when it is used. Focus on frequency adverbs, spelling and pronunciation. This can be done through discussion, asking questions and modeling. Students are taught as a whole class but also independently asked to give answers. Introductory activities need to be introduced over a series of lessons and each concept is taught independently of the others e.g. positive and negatives not taught with plurals. In between each topic follow up activities presented in ‘b’ and ‘c’ can be implemented.
Activities – Simon Says, Guessing Games – What animal am I ?,
Verbal – Show and Tell, Songs – Wonderful Tonight (Eric Clapton)
Practicing and consolidating in controlled circumstances
Worksheets -unscrambling sentences, cloze passages, short answer questions, changing negatives to positives, changing singular to plural. Such worksheets can be found at http://www.eslprintables.com/printable.asp?id=248248.
Writing – Report writing using simple present tense, using their prior knowledge of simple present tense and report writing. Teacher discusses structure and language features with students as whole class. Students are given an outline and topic and are able to construct in pairs. Routines students write their daily routines. Directions students give directions to a designated location.
GAP Activities –
Interactive whiteboard – Teachers can access interactive whiteboard activities using DET Portal, through TALE. The preceding links provide suitable simple present activities that reinforce initial concepts taught.
These activities consist of short stories, followed by supporting activities to enforce the concepts being discussed. Lessons can be implemented using a combination of individual or whole class approaches.
Freer practice of the aspect of language
Interactive computer games- The British Council have designed this language website for K-6 students. It includes interactive games, songs, videos and short stories to assist students in developing an awareness of simple present tense. Each of these activities is supplemented with worksheets and visual arts activities. Activities can be found at the following web address: http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/category/language-focus/grammar-present-simple This website allows students to work at their own pace, requires minimal teacher direction and gives students instant feedback, all whilst learning through an enjoyable medium. There are numerous educational websites, however each should be thoroughly assessed for appropriateness, quality and curriculum standards.
Board Games- The preceding websites provide printable board games.
Each game is supported with teacher reference notes. Each game concentrates on a different form of simple present tense. Students work together in small groups of 2 or 3. The questions in the templates can be altered, so that students are answering meaningful questions and to avoid repetition.
The aforementioned activities are a small sample of activities that could be used to teach simple present tense. Multiple activities can be sourced from the internet, textbook and colleagues then manipulated and altered to suit the needs of individual students. These activities allow for both informal and formal assessment to take place and allow the teacher to continually evaluate student’s progress.
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