‘Used to’ and ‘Would’ for past habit dictogloss

This is something I do whenever this language point comes up, it backs up another point that we have mentioned before; students won’t hear something unless they know it exists.

Why bother teaching ‘would’ for past habit?

I got asked this recently, and the best answer I can give is that when speaking native speakers may use ‘used to’ once but will rarely chain it together for a list of repeated actions for that we tend to use good old ‘would’, so if students want to progress and become more natural communicators then knowing this will be a step on the way.

This is a short lesson, hence its inclusion in the mini lessons section, it could be used to introduce the grammar point or to revise it, whatever you choose is fine and the script can obviously be altered to your own life.

Procedure:

Pre task: Ask your students which structures we can use to talk about past habits, if most of the students know would, there may be less call for doing this lesson!

  1. Tell students that you are going to read two sentences twice and that you want them to try to write down as much as they can.  Tell them not to worry about writing down every word but that they need to get the general meaning and then reconstruct the sentences from there.
  2. Read this text, or one you have altered

“When I was young I used to play football everyday, I’d get to school early everyday and me and my friends’d play for about half an hour. Then the bell’d ring and we’d all run to class.”

It is really important to only read it twice and to try to not emphasise ‘would’.

3. Ask them to  try to rewrite in pairs or groups what you said, encourage them but do not mention ‘would’.  Instead, ask questions such as what time is being talked about, present or past?  What type of word has to go before an infinitive etc.

4.  When they have struggled for a while and maybe some of them have got it, reveal it to them either with a hand out or on the board.

5.  Get them to identify the function of ‘used to’ – past habit

6.  Ask them to think about the use of ‘would’ – does it describe future or past?

Ask them which structures we can use to talk about past habits, they should come up with

  1. past simple
  2. used to
  3. would

7. Ask them to correct the following passage.

“When I was young I wanted to be a doctor, I would want to work in a hospital”

then ask them to complete this rule.

We can use used to / past simple / would to talk about past habits when the verb is stative.

we cannot use past simple / would with stative verbs.

8. Production stage

Ask your students to tell their partners something they used to do when they were younger and ask them to decribe the details using “would”.  Ask them to record it so they can listen back and make any corrections that are needed.

9. Reflection

Ask them again which tenses can be used to talk about past habits.  The old test-teach-test.

From here you could move onto present habits, I’ve noticed that some students tend to struggle with present habits, we normally use present simple and will, but some students want to use ‘use to‘ – when we would use ‘usually’.

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