Musical Chairs: An activity for verb tenses

This is a simple concept that allows the teacher to choose songs and verb tenses that are most appropriate for a given group of students, depending on their age and language level.

STEP 1 – Select a song for your students. Distribute copies of the lyrics. NOTE: It may not be ideal to use the entire lyrics of a song. Sometimes a single verse will work best.

STEP 2 – Play a recording of the song. Discuss any new vocabulary to help students comprehend the lyrics.

STEP 3 – Place three chairs in the front of the classroom. Designate one PAST, one PRESENT, and the third FUTURE. (Index cards can be used as labels on the backs of each chair, or you can place the chairs near the board and write a time periods above each chair.) Explain that three different students will take turns reading the lyrics in the three different chairs. One student will be able to read the lyrics as written, but the other two students will be required to make changes to suit the tense designated by the chairs they are sitting in.

STEP 4 – After the lyrics are changed correctly to a different tense, the class can discuss the changes in meaning.

VARIATION:

With lower level students, you’ll have covered fewer verb tenses. In this case, use only two chairs to contrast the tenses the students already know (e.g., the simple present and the present progressive) with newer tenses (e.g., simple past and the past progressive).

MODEL: (Demonstrate for the students)

First lines of I’ve Been Working on the Railroad

(As is – Present: present perfect progressive)

I’ve been working on the railroad

All the livelong day

I’ve been working on the railroad

Just to pass the time of day

= I started working early this morning, and I’m probably still working.

 

(Past: change present perfect progressive to past perfect progressive)

I’d been working on the railroad

All the livelong day

I’d been working on the railroad

Just to pass the time of day

= I was working up to some point in the past, and then something else happened.

 

(Future: change present perfect progressive to future perfect progressive)

I’ll have been working on the railroad

All the livelong day

I’ll have been working on the railroad

Just to pass the time of day

= I will work until some future point in time.

 

Other Song Suggestions:

John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt

I Fall to Pieces

It’s Only Love

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