Verb tenses challenge most English language learners. When studied in isolation, a given verb tense is clearly understood, but when put into actual use, one verb tense is easily confused with others. This is because at the discourse level we do not limit our speech to a single verb tense.
It makes sense then to teach lessons that focus on more than one verb tense at a time. I do agree with traditional textbook presentations that initially teach a single verb tense in a given unit; however, in later stages of language learning the student will benefit from comparing and contrasting verb tenses. In fact, some grammar textbook series offer lessons on multiple verb tenses as early as the intermediate level (e.g., Focus on Grammar).
Whether the focus of a lesson is on one or several verb tenses, the study and practice of the tenses should be done in a meaningful context. I also believe that there can be some overlap of study and practice; they aren’t always separate events of a lesson. Practice is a form of study. It’s not necessary to hold off exercises and activities until all important points are explained by the teacher. Chances are that such a thorough presentation would overload students with information and render any activity ineffective. I like to make a concise presentation and then get the students to jump into practice. Engaging in a meaningful activity can fill in any gaps, correct misunderstandings, and build upon what was learned earlier from the teacher’s presentation.
In the next few entries, I’ll share activities for verb tenses. They are open exercises that allow for meaningful communication in a fun way.