Learning the basic structure and usage of the past continuous is usually not that difficult for most students. Unfortunately, this is not the case when it comes to actively integrating the past continuous, either in writing or in speaking. This lesson is aimed at helping students recognize the situations in which the use of the past continuous would be beneficial in writing. It focuses on the use of the past continuous as a descriptive tense, i.e. its use to "paint a picture" in words of the moment when something important occurred.
Aim: To increase active usage of the past continuous
Activity: Gap filling exercise followed by creative writing
- Quickly review the past continuous structure with the class.
- Write various examples on the board of sentences combining the past simple and past continuous (e.g., I was walking through the park when I met David) and ask students to comment on what function the past continuous plays in the example sentences.
- Spend some time raising awareness as to the past continuous' role of "painting a picture" of the moment.
- Have students divide into small groups of 3-4.
- Have students complete activity by first conjugating verbs in the past simple, and then inserting past continuous clauses into the appropriate place.
- Correct exercise as a class, making sure to review and discuss any problems that arise.
- Ask students to complete written exercise.
- If time permits, choose a few of the short essays to present to the class.
Put the following verbs into the past simple
Thomas _______ (live) in the small town of Brington. Thomas _______ (love) walking through the beautiful forest that surrounded Brington. One evening, he ____ (take) his umbrella and _____ (go) for a walk in the woods. He ______ (meet) an old man named Frank. Frank _______ (tell) Thomas that, if he _____ (want) to become rich, he should invest in a little known stock called Microsoft. Thomas ______ (think) Frank _____ (be) foolish because Microsoft ____ (be) a computer stock. Everybody _____ (know) that computers _____ (be) just a passing fad. At any rate, Frank _______ (insist) that Thomas _____ (be) wrong. Frank _______ (draw) a wonderful graph of future possibilities. Thomas ______ (begin) thinking that maybe Frank ______ (understand) stocks. Thomas _______ (decide) to buy some of these stocks. The next day, he ______ (go) to the stock broker's and _____ (buy) $1,000 worth of Microsoft stock. That _____ (be) in 1986, today that $1,000 worth of stock is worth more than $250,000!
The part about the Microsoft stock is true!!
Insert the following past continuous fragments into the above story:
- As Frank was drawing the graph, ...
- ... while he was walking to work,
- it was raining so...
- While they were discussing the stock, ...
- When he was returning from his walk, ...
- As he was walking through the woods,
Written Exercise Write an outline of an important day in your life. Include the most important events that occurred during that day in the past simple. Once you have written the important events using the past simple, try to include a description of what was happening at some of the specific moments when those events occurred.
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