The future continuous is a seldom used tense that students should be familiar with, but not necessarily feel they need to use in everyday conversations. In general, the future continuous is the last of the simple continuous forms that I introduce because of the lack of common usage. That being said, the future continuous is often used to stress an event that someone is excited about that will take place in the future. In other words, the future continuous is used to imagine the future, often as something that will be better than the present moment, or as something that is of tremendous import. For example, consider these two sentences:
Just think, in two weeks time we'll be lying on our backs enjoying sun and drinking mai tais.
Peter must be nervous today. He'll be giving the presentation at the conference this time tomorrow.
Time expressions are key to the future continuous. There is one time expression in particular that students should familiarize themselves with immediately: in X amount of time. This form is used to express that things will be very different at a certain point in time in the future. Contextually, this is used to contrast the current activity with a more pleasurable activity in the future.
I can't wait till we go on vacation next week. Look it's five o'clock. This time next Tuesday we'll be surfing, and the kids will probably be swimming in the pool. Most importantly, I won't be sitting at this computer!
Introducing the Future Continuous Form
Looking Forward to Future Events
Perhaps the best way to introduce the future continuous form is to reference some future event that the entire class is looking forward to. This could be school vacation, an important conference, or some other major event. Refer to this event and imagine what you will be doing at that point in time. Ask students to comment on what they will be doing at that point in time in the future.
Well, we have our big class production next Thursday during class. I'll be busy backstage helping everyone with their lines. I'll probably be making last minute changes to the script, as well as helping out with costumer problems and so on. What will you be doing this time next week?
Another productive activity for practicing the future continuous is to ask students to create a schedule for their future activities during the next week or so. As with the past continuous form, students can ask each other what they will be doing at a specific point in time in the future based on their schedules.
Student 1: I see you are going to work next Friday. What will you be doing at 10 in the morning?
Student 2: I imagine I'll be helping Tim at the computer.
Student 1: Your schedule says you will be at school on Thursday. What class will you be attending at this time?
Student 2: I'll be studying in my geometry class.
Future Interrupted Time
Finally, the future continuous is also used to express future interrupted events. This is another speculative form and similar in usage, if not in frequency of usage, to the interrupted past action in the past continuous. Write the two forms for comparison on the board. Once students recognize the similarity in usage, they should be able to use the future continuous for interrupted time with more ease.
Past Interrupted Action
I was watching TV when Tom told me the news.
Future Interrupted Action
They will be vacationing in Hawaii when he receives the news.
Practicing the Future Continuous
Explaining the Future Continuous on the Board
Use a future continuous timeline to illustrate usage. The construction is a little complicated, so providing a quick grammar chart can also help with understanding.
Subject + will + be + verb(ing) + objects
Challenges with the Future Continuous
Students may become confused by the similarity with other future tenses which are often used interchangeably with the future continuous. For example:
In two weeks time, we'll be enjoying our vacation.
In two weeks time, we'll be on vacation.
We're going to leave on vacation in two weeks time.
It's best to indicate to students that each form is possible, but that the meaning is slightly different for each of these forms: In the first, the emphasis is on a contrast to the present moment. The second sentence might be used as a promise, and the third as a statement of a plan. To compare the forms side by side, it's a good idea to take a future forms review quiz in class.