Date: 19.02.2013 

Form: 10



1. Lesson / task description - before


Subject matter: help SS find the differences in usage of PS and PP

Thinking: to give SS a notion about TA and create a draft ENV for distinguishing PP and PS


Materials: handouts with an entry test and sentences containing both tenses, tasks prepared for OHP (materials and ideas used from, V. Evans. FCE Use of English 2, V. Matisane, I. Bučinska, Z. Kremptone..Challenge for Secondary School. Language Development Book, M. Harrison. Oxford Living Grammar)

Abbreviations:  SS – students, PS- past Simple, PP – Present Perfect, TA- thinking approach, WHC- whole class

It was my first lesson of using TA, so despite having studied a number of materials devoted to  applying TA in teaching grammar, I was a bit worried about my students` attitude towards the new method and about whether I will be able to achieve my aims.


2. Lesson / task description – after


I started my lesson with presenting the topic and asking SS if they would like to do something challenging. After getting an affirmative answer I told them a little about TA and admitted that we will learn together how it works.

So, the first question was how much the SS remember about PP and PS (they studied Present tenses in September and Past tenses in December). SS appeared to know very little, apart from some key words like ‘yesterday, last…’ for PS and ‘ever, already, and just’ for PP. Some of them named the forms – V2 for PS and ‘have+V3 for PP. That was all.

Entry test

I gave them handouts with a dialogue where they had to put down the verbs in brackets either in PS or in PP. While monitoring I noticed that despite the revision, some SS still used verb forms like ‘did you went?’ ‘I have been there in 2007’,’he goes’, etc. During WHC checking, I asked SS to justify their choice of verb forms.

Sorting out

The SS were given sentences with underlined verbs in PS and PP and were asked to divide them in two groups with an explanation for their division. Most SS divided the verbs according to tenses (PS and PP), but there were some who divided the verbs according to the number of words, e.g., verb form containing 1 word (e.g., arrived, got, packed) and containing 2 or more words (e.g., has been, didn1t pay, have never had). Surprisingly, but at this stage quite many SS had problems with sorting out. I wonder whether they couldn`t see the difference or simply didn`t want to do anything. They just sat and waited for the answer. After we have discussed the most common division in PS and PP, I asked them to divide the verb forms in 3 groups, then 4 groups. I saw that for fast- learners it was really challenging and they seemed interested, while some SS remains passive as usually. On this stage I tried not to interfere in SS` work, my role was only to monitor and sometimes ask a student why he/she thinks so.

Creating a draft ENV model

As it was the very first experience both for me and my SS I used the following task to help SS make conclusions: 

have taken over the cooking at home for my parent's dinner parties, and I have started to make up my own recipes.

a) Do we know the time of the action? Are we interested in it?

b) Did the action start in the past?

c) Did the action finish in the past?

d) Is the time connected to the present?

e) Are there any special words used?

 She has won many prizes for her writing.

a) Do we know the time of the action? Are we interested in it?

b) Did the action start in the past?

c) Did the action finish in the past?

d) Is the time connected to the present?

e) Are there any special words used?

We got up at half past six this morning.

a) Do we know the time of the action? Are we interested in it?

b) Did the action start in the past?

c) Did the action finish in the past?

d) Is the time connected to the present?

e) Are there any special words used?

She jogged five miles every day when she was young.

a) Do we know the time of the action? Are we interested in it?

b) Did the action start in the past?

c) Did the action finish in the past?

d) Is the time connected to the present?

e) Are there any special words used?


After that we made a very simple draft ENV model:




Time : known (particular time)


Action: from past to past


Time : unknown (in general)


Action: from past to present (result)



Key words: Yesterday,  ago, last year, in 2012

Key words: Already, yet, just, ever, never, since, for


This was all we managed to do at the lesson.  As a home task SS were given 2 exercises from Solutions Intermediate Workbook: one deals with choosing a correct verb form and the second task is to put one verb in PS and PP according to the context. 


3. Overall reflection on the lesson.


Looking back at the lesson, I think that for the first time it was quite satisfactory: I managed to involve the most part of SS in work, for fast- learners there were additional tasks so that they could not feel bored, SS created a draft ENV model, though very simple, but I think it`s enough for the first time.SS seemed interested and reflected positively.




4. Questions/conclusions for the future.




At the next lesson I am going to apply ENV model for tenses analysis, we will do more exercises on PS and PP and I would like to ask SS to do entry test again to make sure of their progress.


I think, I didn`t give SS enough time to do the sorting out: it took much more time than I had planned, so we started checking even when some SS had nothing in their exercise-books. Sorting out in 3 and 4 groups was just an oral discussion. I am still not sure whether we should devote so much time on sorting out. How can I motivate SS who do not want to work or just can`t do it due to the lack of knowledge?


In future I would like to do the same with Present Perfect and  Present Perfect Continuous.






# Alexander Sokol 2013-02-21 18:18
Dear Inessa

Welcome to our community and many thanks for your reflections.

The first steps with a new approach are always difficult, therefore I am grateful you have found the time to share your experience with us. There are a few things I'd like to ask.

1. You are saying that one of your aims was to introduce your learners to the Thinking Approach. Can you say a few words on how you did it? This question has previously been raised by other colleagues as well, therefore it's always interesting to have multiple perspectives.

2. How much time did the activities you describe take? I am asking as normally moving from the entry test to the draft model takes quite some time, especially in the beginning. I personally spent at least three-four 40 min sessions to reach this stage. Moving faster is often difficult as it requires us to 'push' students too much, which should normally be avoided.

3. Can you describe in more detail in the process of making the ENV model on the basis of the concept question exercise you are referring to? How did the students move from answering questions to the actual model?

4. What do you see as the next step? Do you envisage any work on improving the model? If so, how do you plan to organise it?

5. Let me also say a few things about the model itself. An important thing about any ENV model is to remember about the element we describe. Normally when making grammar models to help us to choose the right verb structure, the element we describe (E in the model) is Action in a general sense (including states).
If we accept this, then Time as a parameter of action is absolutely fine. As as well as 'known' & 'unknown' as values - formally it makes an acceptable ENV description (I am not discussing the question of 'better'/'worse' model. Action, however, can't be used as a parameter as in this case we would be speaking about Action of Action, which doesn't really make sense. I am having a difficulty to suggest an alternative as I am not sure I understand your values under this parameter either (eg 'from past to present' sounds like a value of parameter Time to me). You can look up a possible model here:

Looking forward to your further posts.
# Inessa Spelkova 2013-02-25 15:27
Dear Alexander,
thank you very much for the comments. I`ll try to answer your questions.
1. I simply told my students that currently I am taking part in a new project, connected with TA and this is a method which makes both teaching and learning more challenging. That was all. I simply asked the SS if they would like to have their English lessons a bit different, and they said 'Yes'. Actually, I didn`t introduce TA in details, it was not my task.

2. Everything i described in the reflection took 40 minutes- one lesson. I agree, that it might be too much for one lesson, but the entry test didn`t take much time (appr. 10 minutes), as the SS studied present perfect and past simple in the first semester. Sorting out also took 10 minutes, as we discussed division in three, four groups orally. my task at this very first stage was to give SS a notion that we can study grammar differently.

3. After having got SS answers to the questions, I asked them,'What parameters do we pay attention on when speaking about these tenses? What are we most interested in?' SS answered that it was 'time'. Then I draw a table on the board and wrote 'time' :Do we know the time of an action or are we interested in it in past simple? - 'Yes'. Then we together wrote:'Time: known', etc.
I agree with you, maybe the word 'action'is beter replace by 'vision of action' or 'action reference'' , but actually, SS understood what was taken in consideration. On the next lesson we tried to do some exercises applying this model, and for most students it was quite successful, because so far they had difficulties with the usage of PP and PS. Now at least 70% can do it correctly. So,we will continue practical work unless 90% of SS are able to use these tenses correctly.
Next, according to our Student`s Book, I am going to introduce Present Perfect Continuous and to add a new parameter, like the length of the action.
Referring to your materials in, I noticed that you quite a lot of time devoted to sorting out. I made this stage shorter due to two reasons: firstly, it might have made sense if we had spoken about more tenses, e.g., past tenses,but we had only two of them. secondly, as I said, I still don`t feel confident and I was simply afraid to make my students confused.
I still need time and step-by-step approach, but I do hope that you and more experienced team mates will encourage me and give useful advice.
# Alexander Sokol 2013-02-25 17:25
Inessa, thanks for the detailed replies.

I am glad to hear your students are doing better. This is always pleasant for the teacher.

Re the time spent on sorting. You are right here, this time can be reduced as long as students are familiar with the structures involved. The only aim of Part 2 of the grammar system (which can be achieved either via sorting tasks or work with banks) is to get the students to discover the structures. If they are known (really known, ie Entry test shows no structural mistakes among most students), it's possible to start with Part 3 (aim formulation).

Speaking about time, I am more concerned about skipping Part 3 and quick movement through Part 4. Normally, as I said, moving through Part 4 quickly means that the teacher 'gives' quite a lot. For example, in your answer to my comment, you are saying that you asked the students 'Do we know the time of an action or are we interested in it in past simple?' Compare this question with those offered at the TA website:
Would you agree that yours is much more leading?

I'd also be careful when saying that students understand or don't understand something. Normally we need some data to prove our words. I'd also suggest that you avoid the term 'action reference'. We choose this or that form because the speaker conceptualises / sees the action in this or that way, not because it has a certain reference in 'real' world. It's not the real time we are interested in but the psychological time of the speaker.
Joomla SEF URLs by Artio