When is the future not the future? When it’s in the past of course!

Apologies for the title…couldn’t resist. 

So, this is a lesson I taught recently and had a lot of fun doing it. The idea was to encourage students to use the future in the past to justify their actions but also to work on comprehension. So often our comprehension exercises are based largely on a student’s ability to skim and scan. I wanted to get them looking further, to read between the lines, to really identify the subtleties of language and to understand exactly what the speaker was saying.

Level: Intermediate and above

Time: 1 – 2 hours (depending on error correction and level of the group)

Materialsargument

Procedure (I think the worksheet is pretty self-explanatory but I’ve highlighted a few ideas you can try out when you’re teaching it)

1

Tell the students you’ve just had a fight with your boyfriend / girlfriend (you may need to change the text slightly depending on your situation). Ask them to think of some of the typical arguments couples might have. (It’s probably useful to start building “argument” language and vocab here, using what the students give you. I find that constructions such as, “he’s always leaving the toilet seat up” tend to come up at this point).

2

Students read the text quickly and discuss the problem in small groups.

3

At this point, tell the students you want them to imagine that they are no longer your students, they are your friends. You have just told them what they have read and they are free to ask you any clarification questions they want but no language questions. This encourages them to dig deeper without focusing on what each word/phrase means. You can make up the answers for yourself and feel free to alter the text to make it suit your needs.

       e.g.

– Did you intend to tell your girlfriend about the meeting?

– How did she find out you had met her?

4

Now that students have clarified what they wanted to, leave them to deal with the comprehension questions and then discuss as a class. These questions are open to interpretation.

5

Get students to underline any examples of future in the past (e.g. was going to / was about to). Pull them out and have a look at the structures together. I wouldn’t worry about pronunciation at this point as it will come up later. You might want to get them to write a few sample sentences to ensure they understand it. I use the example from earlier in the lesson.

– “Why did you leave the toilet seat up?” / “Well I was going to put it down….”

6

Let the students work away on the vocab questions, really digging deep into the text and then discuss as a class.

7

To practise all of the language from the lesson, tell the students they’re going to have the argument with their partners. Give each person a role and then give them a few minutes to prepare some sentences they will say to their boy/girlfriend in the argument. Encourage them to use any language that was on the handout or that has come up in the lesson.

8

Get them out of their seats and let them argue away. Note errors of the target language on the board. Once the arguments are finished, students return to their seats and correct the errors as a group.

Now it’s time for pronunciation. Have a look at the chunks of language below and drill them with your students.

“I was going to” = /əwəzgənə/

“I was about to” = /aɪwəzəbaʊtə/

Now get them up to have the same argument with another student and when they’re finished you can choose to give feedback on errors, vocab, pron or whatever your heart desires. Feel free to change the roles/situation and have them repeat similar arguments. This slight change will keep the activity from becoming tired and boring and will allow them to really focus on upgrading their language with the new language and the pronunciation, something that they won’t do if they haven’t had a chance to try the activity a few times.

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