Narrative tenses, students normally know them, they can tell you what tense it is, but can they identify their functions? that is always the trickier and more important thing.
This lesson uses a few different short story beginnings and moves from a focus on narrative tenses to language that tells us what sort of story is being told, with a view to improving the students’ own production skills.
It also features something you’ll find in most of our lessons, working out some vocabulary from context.
I must say at this point that some of the vocabulary ideas in this lesson were things I first thought about after teaching from the old New First Certificate Gold.
Level: Upp Int + (high level upp ints)
Aims: To check functions of the different narrative tenses.
1.a You could give each student a different story and get them to read them before telling other students in the group.
1.b Place the stories around the walls and the students have to read them.
2. Students are asked to match the stories to one of the following genres
love / action / suspense / horror / sci-fi / fantasy /
There are I suppose no correct answers but the obvious ones to pick would be:
- story 1 – horror
- story 2 – love
- story 3 – suspense
- story 4 – sci-fi
3. Ask students to discuss in groups and pairs what they think is typical of each genre and what made them choose the answers they did. At this point you could highlight some of the vocab you elicit from them on the board.
Hand out copies of the stories
- Ask students to identify examples of past simple / past continuous / past perfect / past perfect continuous.
- Ask the students to match the tense to its use
- Ask them to look at the timeline for story 1, and then to create one for one of the following three stories.
- Ask them to look at the story on page 3 the story and decide how it could be improved by using the different tenses. Obviously there is no definitive correct version, but set them the challenge of using past simple, past continuous and past perfect.
- Ask students to identify words that are typical of the genre. e.g.:
- story 1 – wind was howling, crept, old abandoned,
- story 2 – sun was shining, fluffy clounds, perfect day,
- story 3 – nervously, paced
- story 4 – ice clouds, ship’s computer, new planet gleamed
Also ask them to predict the meaning of the words, don’t let them use dictionaries, explain that the exact meaning is not necessary, just a general idea. Do whole class feedback on any words which present difficulties.
2. Ask the students to add further words typical of one of the genres to the table on p3.
Follow up activities
- The obvious thing is to ask them to carry on one of the stories and there is nothing wrong with that as long as the emphasis is on reusing the grammar and getting them to use some of the vocab they worked on together.
2. Another could be to ask them to record an anecdote for you and email it to you, this gives you the chance to really get them to practice the language in a context they may frequently use. An advantage of this is you can send them notes on their pronunciation, especially the intonation.
E.g. I was walking down the street yesterday when …
You know what will motivate your class best.