The present continuous tense is one that students will learn after learning the first three simple tenses that is simple present, past and future. When teaching additional tenses it is important to highlight what time period is referred to and also in what situations students would used each tense.
How To Proceed
Have students practice using the simple present tense as they volunteer to answer questions or play fruit basket to encourage students to make sentences of their own. When you have finished draw an image on the board illustrating the simple present tense as a reference point and ensure that students understand when to use the present tense.
Introduce Present Continuous
Give students some example sentences using the present continuous tense. By using pairs of sentences in your examples, you can show when to use the present simple tense and when to use the present continuous tense. A good example might be “I play baseball every day.” and “I am playing baseball with Ben (right now).” See if students understand the difference in meaning between the two and ask for translations. It is important to illustrate on the board the difference between this tense and other tenses your students have learned. The best way to do this is by drawing a simple chart. On the board under your image illustrating the present tense, draw a similar image to illustrate the present continuous tense. You can also discuss the fact that the present tense is used when talking about daily routines while the present continuous tense is used when talking about specific non-routine actions and future plans.
Practice Present Continuous
Give students some basic practice exercises so they can get used to changing present simple verbs into the present continuous tense. This can be done in the form of a fill in the blank worksheet but this would also be an appropriate topic to use battleship for speaking practice. Students can use the battleship grid to change I, You, play soccer, speak English, etc. into the sentences “I am playing soccer.” and “You are speaking English.” If students have played this game before, it might take approximately thirty minutes to explain and play twice.
Phone conversations would be a real life situation where the present continuous tense is used quite often so in order to give students practice with this tense as well as basic phone conversation, make a short model dialogue for students to practice in pairs. This could be very simple where Student A asks Student B for someone and Student B replies “I’m sorry. He’s not here right now. He’s playing baseball with Ben.” It could also be more complex. Adjust the conversation to suit your students’ ability level and encourage them to create part of the conversation, preferably the present continuous part of the conversation, on their own. Have students volunteer to present their dialogues to the class at the end of the activity.
Ask students to imagine a situation and then write three to five present continuous tense sentences to describe it without saying the location. Students can then work in pairs or groups to guess the locations of different scenarios. An example may be “I am sitting. I am listening to my music. I am looking out the window. I am moving.” It is very simple but students might then guess the location as in a car, on a bus, in a train, or on a plane.
Review Present Continuous
Any activity you have done for this topic can be used as a review activity at the end of the lesson. You may also want to get students moving if they have been sitting down for the entire class period, especially after a writing exercise, so you can have students form a circle. Students should take turns making present continuous sentences and then calling on students to make the next sentence. You can continue this activity until everyone has made a sentence or until the bell rings. If you want to ensure that everyone makes at least one sentence, you can have students start sitting down after their turns. This is not recommended for large classes because then lots of students will be sitting down with nothing to do towards the end of the activity.
Present continuous is a more complex tense that students may initially have difficulty understanding when to use but the more practice they have using it, the better off they will be.
Tara Arntsen has worked with English Language Learners of all ages for many years and has taught in Japan, Cambodia, and China as well as online. When she is not teaching, she enjoys cooking, traveling around the world, and scuba diving. She is a member of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Teaching-TESOL at the University of Southern California.