Narrative tenses – higher levels

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.

Procedure:

Introduction

1.a You could give each student a different story and get them to read them before telling other students in the group.

Or

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.

Grammar focus

Hand out copies of the stories

  1. Ask students to identify examples of past simple / past continuous / past perfect / past perfect continuous.
  2. Ask the students to match the tense to its use
  3. Ask them to look at the timeline for story 1, and then to create one for one of the following three stories.
  4. 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.

Vocab focus

  1. 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.

Materials: worksheet

Follow up activities

  1. 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.

Enjoy

Grammar Girlfriend: The future

Grammar girlfriend is my made up girlfriend that I use to tell stories to introduce language points. The idea is simple: your telling your students a story so there is a clear context for the language, it’s nice exposure for them to natural speech and story-telling and because it’s you and it’s “personal”, your students are much more engaged and invested than if it was written in a book or some random recording.

This is a very quick story that I use to examine how we express the future in English. Feel free to steal, adapt or just to take the basic idea of having a made-up grammar partner.

So my girlfriend (Actually my ex now) came home one day with a picture she’d bought at a market somewhere. She came in all happy and pleased with herself and tried to show me the picture. Now, I was playing Xbox so didn’t really pay much attention (maybe that’s why she’s now my ex). Anyway she asked me to hang the painting on the wall for her.

A few days later she comes home and there’s the painting lying against the wall where she left it. “David!” she says, “David! My painting!”.

Now at this point I have three things I can say to my girlfriend:

  1. Don’t worry, I’ll hang it tomorrow.
  2. Don’t worry, I’m going to hang it tomorrow.
  3. Don’t worry, I’m hanging it tomorrow.

At this point I display these three options on the board and explain that each of them is grammatically correct, each of them is possible in this situation and in each one the result is the same, the painting will be on the wall tomorrow but that each one gives my girlfriend different information.

The task for the students is to discuss each of them, decide what information each one tells her and which one I probably said.

  1. Don’t worry, I’ll hang it tomorrow. – I’ve only just decided about this and I hadn’t given it any thought before this moment.
  2. Don’t worry, I’m going to hang it tomorrow. – I thought about it before now and made the decision to hang it tomorrow.
  3. Don’t worry, I’m hanging it tomorrow. – Don’t worry darling, I thought about this before now, I’ve organised everything, I’ve bought a hammer and a nail and got my spirit-level out and all that jazz, it’s happening tomorrow…worry not my dear. 

Above is the info you’re looking for from the students, and obviously the answer is number 3. This usually leads to a discussion about the future in English and how it’s all about what the speaker wants to express to the listener and by using “will” alone, the learners are limiting themselves. You could also look at the fact that I said 3 but 1 was probably the truth.

Enjoy.