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Talking about Then and Now - Focus on Differences between Past and Present

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Getting students to talk about the differences between the past and present is a great way to get students using a variety of tenses and cementing their understanding of the differences and time relationships between the past simple, present perfect (continuous) and present simple tenses. This exercise is quite easy for students to understand and helps to get students thinking in the right direction before beginning the task.

Aim: Conversation lesson focusing on the use of the past simple, present perfect and present simple tenses

Activity: Drawing diagrams as a support for conversation in pairs

Level: Intermediate to advanced

Outline:

  • Give students the example below or draw a similar example on the board.
  • Read through the example sentences showing the relationship between the two circles ('life then' and 'life now').
  • Ask students why you used the various tenses (i.e. past simple, present perfect (continuous) and present simple (continuous).
  • Have students draw two circles. Each circle should have 'me' at the center with a universe of friends, hobbies, relationships, etc. surrounding. One circle is drawn for the past and one drawn for 'life now'.
  • Students break up into pairs and explain their diagrams to each other.
  • Walk around the room and listen to the discussions, take notes on the most common mistakes made.
  • As a follow up, go through the most common mistakes made by the students to focus on the problems they are still having with certain tenses (i.e. using the present perfect instead of past simple for definite past).
Life Then - Life Now

Look at the two circles describing 'life then' and 'life now'. Read the sentences below describing how the persons life has changed.

  • In 1994, I lived in New York.
  • Since then, I have moved to Livorno where I have been living for the past five years.
  • In 1994, I had been married to Barbara for four years. Since then, we have had our daughter Katherine. Katherine is three years old.
  • Barbara and I have been married for ten years.
  • I used to play squash twice a week when I lived in New York.
  • Now I play tennis twice a week. I have been playing tennis for over a year.
  • My best friends were Marek and Franco in New York. Now my best friend is Corrado.
  • I loved going to the opera in New York. Now, I love going to museums around Tuscany.
  • I worked at the New York Association for New Americans for two years in New York.
  • Now I work at the British School. I have been working there for over four years.

Draw two circles of your own. One describing life a few years ago and one describing life now. Once you have finished, find a partner and describe how your life has changed over the past few years.

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