perfect simple or continuous by Sandra Bradwell
You will need a copy of the coursebooks
Cutting Edge, Upper Int, unit 5
& International Express, Upper Int, unit 1
Time: 80 mins
We are using Cutting Edge Upper Intermediate as a course book
and in module 5, the grammar focus is on the perfect aspect
in the past, present and future and on the differences between
the present perfect simple and present perfect continuous
forms. It is the latter which I am going to focus on in this
lesson. In the last three lessons from this unit we have looked
at unusual personal achievements and human achievements in
politics, society, medicine and technology. We have been doing
a lot of activities in class, practising the skills of listening,
reading, speaking from a video prompt, using verb-noun word
combinations and although there has been a lot of exposure
to a variety of perfect forms and students know them, they
still find it difficult to use them correctly when they are
speaking and make a lot of mistakes. These are complex forms
which have very different forms when translated into Spanish.
In the last lesson we were choosing the best timelines to
reflect sentences in the perfect aspect and students noticed
that the present perfect simple form exists in Spanish but
is not always the best translation for the present perfect
simple form in English. As most of the students showed an
interest in grammar on the needs analysis sheet at the beginning
of the academic year and in the feedback at Christmas, I felt
it would be a good opportunity to focus more specifically
on the present perfect simple and present perfect continuous,
providing them with a worksheet which will serve as a record.
As the students are all young adults and interested in English
for work purposes, I have also decided to move away from the
book slightly, to give students the opportunity of preparing
a job interview role play which they will find more useful
than the role plays in the book: flat hunting and a flatmate
and her boyfriend having problems. I plan to continue work
on verb forms and the pronunciation of weak forms and contractions
over the course. I would like to video the role play in a
future class if the students show interest .
To provide an opportunity for students to discuss and analyse
the differences between the present perfect simple and present
perfect continuous forms from a clear context (stage 5)
To develop skill of noticing word stress, weak forms of auxiliaries
have/has and been (stage 4, stage 6)
To illustrate the present perfect simple and present perfect
continuous forms on timelines (stage 5)
To develop the listening skill: prediction skills (stage 2),
intensive listening for specific details (stage 3), intensive
listening for key grammatical forms (stage 4)
To reinforce forms by providing varied contexts: visuals (stage
8), snippet of song (stage 7)
Grammar is one of the areas that most students are concerned
about and using the present perfect simple and present perfect
continuous forms to speak about biographical details, whether
in an interview situation or not, is a useful skill and something
of interest to most people. Some of the students will be preparing
for the First Certificate in English exam next year and so
will need a sound grounding in all the grammatical forms to
be able to produce a good written exam and perform well in
the oral exam.
The course book provides a lot of language in context in the
reading and the language focus 1 section, but language focus
2 only provides six visual cues to contrast the present perfect
simple, present perfect continuous and then moves on to some
practice sentences before developing two role plays: Paul
flat hunting, Jayne who has a flatmate having problems with
her boyfriend. The analysis box in the student's book is very
clear but students can look at this at home. I wanted to analyse
the different forms from a listening context as students need
practice in this skill and the listening from International
Express Upper Intermediate provides a section of an interview
situation which is quite natural with the repetitions and
some of the discourse features of more natural speech as well
as providing a context which will lead into the job interview
I decided to begin the lesson with vocabulary review from
previous lessons to provide an opportunity for speaking, to
help students remember items and to allow any late students
pre-listening task will hopefully prepare students for the
listening by providing a clear context, a face for the voice
and some useful vocabulary. It will also activate their schemata
and allow for some prediction and speaking.
I have designed a worksheet for the main body of the lesson,
adapting the original task from International Express Upper
Intermediate unit 1. It provides a tapescript which highlights
the pauses in the interview and has gaps to focus attention
on the grammatical forms. It summarises the most important
differences of each grammatical form in a table, commenting
on the similarities, usual contexts and most useful verbs.
It finally draws attention to the pronunciation of clauses.
It moves from intensive listening for details of the main
ideas expressed in the listening, to focus on the two grammatical
forms under study: the present perfect simple, present perfect
continuous. I want to encourage a guided discovery approach
to grammar, encouraging students in pairs to look at the forms
in context and think about the differences before asking them
specifically to analyse features in the table which will reinforce
the distinction and make it clearer.
students know the forms, I have included work on work stress
and the pronunciation of weak forms. Again I want to encourage
them to use their knowledge from previous lessons to predict
the features before checking on the cassette. As I want to
build up to some oral production in the form of a role play
at the end of the lesson, I think it is important to drill
the features of pronunciation. The main reasons are to help
students notice the rhythm, to give them an opportunity for
very controlled practice, which is unnatural but gives confidence,
it helps them get their mouth around the structure and provides
a variety of pace. The snippet of song from the Beatles at
the end of this stage in the lesson is to add variety and
to provide a memorable context for the grammatical forms and
pronunciation. Some students can remember songs without making
next stage of the lesson involves the materials from the student's
book. I decided to have them colour photocopied and have put
them on card to make them attractive. I have indicated pronunciation
features on the written cues: word stress, weak forms. By
putting them around the room, students will have an opportunity
to get out of their seats and comment on the best sentence.
For the spatial learners it will provide a very valuable context
for the grammatical forms and highlight the differences in
the two forms even further. I asked students to look at these
pictures in their books for homework at the end of the last
lesson and am hoping this will help them complete the task
quickly and correctly. I plan to change pairs before this
activity and am going to use vocabulary collocation to pair
students up. The expressions will be taken from the listening
and the song snippet and I am hoping it will provide a short
The last two stages of the lesson build up to a role play
of a job interview, which provides a natural, useful context
for the use of the two verbs forms. Students will prepare
their role in two groups AAA/BBB. They will have some prompts
to develop their role and can be themselves, a famous person
or a fictitious character. I will remind students to think
carefully about the verb forms they use and when the past
simple form is used. They will help each other in their two
groups before practising in pairs. I will tell the students
that, after practising in pairs, one pair will perform their
interview and be taped at the end. I will monitor carefully
at the preparation stage to ensure students have understood
and choose the correct forms. The students will have six minutes
to practise in pairs before the demonstration. I will tape
the demonstration role play. While one pair perform the role
play, the other students will listen out for the use of the
present perfect simple, present perfect continuous forms used
and tick the topic areas where they are used on their role
play sheet. If students find this difficult, they can focus
their attention mainly on the language used by the person
carrying out their role: the candidate or the interviewer.
worksheet will provide a useful working document for future
Students are familiar with the verb forms. Since Christmas
I have been trying to help students notice and practise connected
speech and word stress but students find this area difficult
and it sounds very unnatural.
problems and solutions:
Students will probably find the listening challenging so the
pre-listening task (stage 2) is vitally important. I have
prepared an attractive flashcard to focus their attention
on the speaker and the cues will help activate schemata and
provide an opportunity for pre-teaching some important vocabulary
before the listening: self-employed, recruitment consultancy.
Students will not be familiar with some vocabulary: to take
on (staff), to start up (a service), it's worth ..ing, to
switch off from (work), supportive but I hope it will not
distract them from the task. Most of the vocabulary is clear
or can be worked out from the context.
Students may confuse the present participle and the gerund
in stage 5 as the form is the same. I can explain the difference
to students if this problem arises.
Students may not remember what state verbs are so I have included
some examples and indicated a page reference from the student
book on the worksheet to reduce anxiety.
Stages 3, 4, 5, 6 require a lot of concentration. I hope I
have planned sufficient variety of activity, change of pace
to keep students involved
There are 8 students in the class. We meet twice a week for
one hour 20 minutes on Monday and Wednesday afternoons from
16.05 to 17.25. The age range is between 19 and 48. I have
been teaching the group since the beginning of October 2002.
Some students in the group have been studying at Chester for
several years, others have just started this year. They are
a mixed group but work very well together. I include a list
of the students and a brief comment about each one.
- She is studying the final year of her degree course. She
is keen and communicative but tends to speak too much Spanish
unnecessarily. Her vocabulary is good. She wants to understand
every word when listening
and consequently gets frustrated easily. She is a little erratic
in handing in homework.
Javier - He is 19 and in his final year at school. He participates
well in class and has a very good memory for vocabulary. His
listening and speaking skills are good but he tends to finish
activities quickly rather than maximising opportunities to
speak. He makes careless mistakes in his written work. He
rarely takes notes in class.
Francisco - He is 26 and an industrial engineer. The official
language at work is English but everybody speaks Spanish.
He is very keen and participates well. His listening skills
are good and he regularly takes books out of the school library.
He participates well in pair work but is quiet and a little
shy in whole group activities. His written work is good. He
will always ask about vocabulary if he is not sure about something.
He was absent in the last lesson.
Carmen - She works as a secretary in a company. She studied
French at school and started learning English a few years
ago. She finds the listening and speaking activities difficult.
She is keen but struggling a bit at the moment. She has handed
in very little homework but told me that she does not like
Mª Teresa - She is a lawyer and works at the Mint. She
is a quiet student. Her listening skills are quite good. Her
writing is good. She participates well in pair work but takes
a back seat in bigger group activities.
Irene - She is studying Economics and working as a dance teacher
at the same time. She is nervous about her English and has
commented that she thinks she is the weakest in the group.
She doesn't always understand me. She speaks quietly and works
better in pair/ group work than in whole group activities.
Her written work is good. She likes to make notes of new vocabulary
Virginia - She is a computer programmer and needs English
for her job. She is very communicative but makes a lot of
mistakes because she is very spontaneous. She has good listening
skills and reads books from the school library. The only student
to have done all the homework. She makes a lot of mistakes
in her written work and is concerned about her grammar.
Fran Alemán - He works for the Spanish Open University
in the mass media department making educational videos. He
is learning English for travel rather than work purposes.
He was studying a First Certificate course last year but found
it difficult and asked to repeat the upper intermediate course
this year. He is extrovert and likes to make jokes in class.
He participates a lot and works very well with all the students.
His listening skills are quite good and his vocabulary is
good but he is not very accurate when he speaks and in his
writing. He has not been to class since Christmas because
his wife has had an accident.
the students find the vocabulary load difficult. I try to
consolidate as much as possible to make it easier for them
to remember. They all found the listening part of the Christmas
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