How to Teach the Present Simple Tense

How to Teach the Present Simple Tense

When teaching the Present Simple the ultimate goal is to make sure your students understand that it’s used to describe routines, habits, daily activities, and general truths. Also important is the contrast between the Present Simple and the Present Progressive.
This series of steps will guide you towards teaching the Present Simple and covers function, conjugation, and form.

How To Proceed

  1. 1

    Introduce an action
    Pick up a newspaper and pretend to read it. Ask your students what you're doing. They’ll say, “You’re reading a newspaper.”
    T: “What newspaper am I reading?”
    S: “You’re reading The New York Times.”

  2. 2

    Introduce Present Simple - First person singular
    Tell your students, “I read The New York Times every day.” Make a list of the things you do every day as a routine:

    • I have breakfast at 7.
    • I go to work at 9.
    • I have lunch at 12.
    • I go home at 5.
    • I watch TV before dinner.

    Make sure your students understand that you do this on a daily or weekly basis; these are habitual actions. Go around the class and have students tell you what they do everyday or what some of their habits are. They should give more examples in the first person singular.

  3. 3

    Introduce Present Simple – Second person singular
    Say: “I read the New York Times. Sarah, you read USA Today”. Go around the class giving examples like, “I go to work at 9. You go to school.” Face each of your students and state a general truth:
    T: “John, you live in Queens.”
    John (to teacher): “You live in Queens, too.”
    T: “Sally, you have a dog.”
    Sally (to teacher): “You have a cat”.
    Split your students up into pairs and have them give each other statements in the second person singular.

  4. 4

    Introduce Present Simple – Third person singular
    Say: “I read the New York Times. Sarah reads USA Today”. Make sure students notice that you’ve added the s for the third person singular. Give more examples with other students, and introduce the irregular verbs: John goes to work at 8. Sally has lunch at 1. Students provide more examples from the information previously shared by their classmates.

  5. 5

    Do the same for the plural persons
    Ask who lives in Queens and ask them to stand up. Then point to yourself and those standing and say: “We live in Queens.” Ask who lives in the Bronx and ask them to stand up. Address those who are standing and say: “You live in the Bronx”. Point to your group and say, “We live in Queens”. Ask who lives in Manhattan and point to that group and say: “They live in Manhattan.”

  6. 6

    Introduce Present Simple – Negative
    Make a statement in the affirmative, then make one in negative with don’t.
    T: I live in Queens, I don’t live in the Bronx.
    Ask students to do the same presenting first an affirmative, then a negative. Practice all persons except the third person singular.

  7. 7

    Introduce Present Simple – Negative (third person singular)
    Make a statement about a student, then make one in negative form using doesn’t.
    T: Alex reads the New York Times. He doesn't read USA Today.
    Ask students to do the same by using the information previously shared by their classmates.

  8. 8

    Introduce Present Simple – Questions
    Make a statement about yourself. Then ask a student a question to introduce do.
    T: I walk to school. John, do you walk to school?
    Walk around the classroom asking students questions and teaching them to answer, “Yes, I do” or “No, I don't”. Do the same for all persons except third person singular.

  9. 9

    Introduce Present Simple – Questions (third person singular)
    Contrast students’ habits. Make a statement about one, then ask about another student:
    T: John walks to school. Does Sarah walk to school?
    Walk around the classroom asking questions with does, and teach students to answer “Yes, he does” “No, he doesn’t”.

  10. 10

    Expand and practice: Present Simple Excercises.
    Practice all persons and forms. Ask open-ended questions. Introduce more verbs.
    Where do you live?
    Where does she work?
    How many languages do you speak?
    Now’s also a great time consolidate everything that they’ve learned about the Present Simple; this is a great worksheet that will help them focus on form.

Obviously, you don't have to follow all of these steps in one single lesson; you can spread them over the course of a week to make sure your students have plenty of time to practice the Present Simple exercises in all its forms. There are literally hundreds of Present Simple worksheets and lessons plans available at that you can use for in-class activities or give to your students for homework for extended practice. Be sure to check them out!
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