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Present 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

Preliminary Information

Time: 80 mins

Level: Upper Intermediate

Timetable Fit:
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 .

Main aims
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)

Subsidiary aims
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)

Lesson rationale:
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 role play.

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 to arrive.

The 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.

As 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 much effort.

The 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 drill.
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.

The worksheet will provide a useful working document for future reference.

Assumed knowledge:
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.

Anticipated 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, 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

Class Profile:
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.

Estefanía - 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 writing.

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 and expressions.

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.

All 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 exam difficult.

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