Teaching Tenses

Teaching Tenses – Hebrew Speakers

If your students are Hebrew speakers, teaching Tenses may be quite a challenge. In English, there is not only one kind of Present, one kind of Past and one kind of Future, like in Hebrew. That's the main problem.

In order to facilitate comprehension of Tenses, I have developed a special model and grouped Tenses accordingly.

I have divided the Tenses into three groups:

The  Cycle of the Present

The Cycle of the Past

The Cycle of the Perfect Tenses.

All Tenses are naturally taught in context and presented using appropriate relevant texts.

I will deal with the Cycle of the Present in this article, explain the rationale of my approach and present a lesson plan with practical examples to be used in the classroom.

The Cycle of the Present

I have included three tenses in this cycle: Present Simple, Present Progressive and Future Simple.


It is very important to teach these three tenses one after the other in order to introduce the principles of the sequence of tenses. Students have to understand that we usually, (at least, at the basic and intermediate levels), write mostly in the Present or in the Past and that's why English Grammar offers a special Future for a text in the PresentFuture Simple – and a special Future for a text in the Past – Future Past

Back to the Cycle of the Present

We have to start with the structure of Present Simple and Present Progressive and pay special attention to the particular situations when we use the Present Simple or the Present Progressive. Some teachers prefer to start with the Present Progressive and others prefer to start with the Present Simple. It does not really matter. What is important is to teach the Future Simple right after the two kinds of Present and not move to the Past as most books do. 

In Junior High I suggest to spend about three lessons on the Present Simple: structure, spelling exceptions, Positive, Interrogative and Negative forms, WH Questions and the main issue: When do we use this tense?  Then we should move to the Present Progressive and follow the same pattern. Finally, we should have a lesson comparing and contrasting both kinds of Present and summing up:

What we do on a regular basisPresent Simple.

What we are doing now or very soonPresent Progressive.

The next step is to spend about two lessons on the Future Simple and at least one lesson on exercises and activities combining the three tenses of the Cycle of the Present.

Remember, too much is eventually too little. It is important to conclude the subject summing up the rules in a very clear and simple way.

Structure of the unit

Lesson 1 – Introduction of Present Simple – structure and spelling exceptions.

Lesson 2Interrogative and Negative Forms, WH Questions

Lesson 3UsageWhen do we use this tense?

Lessons 4, 5, 6 – Same pattern regarding Present Progressive.


As mentioned above, we may decide to choose to teach Present Progressive before Present Simple.

Lessons 7,8Future Simple

Lessons 9,10 – Review and practice of the Cycle of the Present. You may wish to use my Map of the Cycle of the Present – מפת ההווה.pdf.

Lesson plan:

1. Oral Activity – about 10 min.

Suggestions (Suitable subjects for class conversation):

Present Simple:

Our daily routine

What we usually do on weekends / in the summer vacations

Our hobbies: what we like, what we don't like, etc.

Present Progressive:

The weather: Is it raining at the moment?

What we are doing now

Future Simple:

My plans for the Future.

What the world will look like twenty years from now


The weather forecast

2. Presentation of Text including many examples of the tense I intend to teach – about 15 min.

Discussion of the text

Underlining and analyzing structures of the Tense I am teaching

Eliciting the rules and summing up

3. Class practice: exercises, role-plays, writing activities – about 10 min.

4. Homework – carefully guided exercises – about 5 min.


And that's about all for today.

For more explanations, please see:
דקדוק אנגלי לדוברי עברית, p 9-26

For exercises, please see:
The New Language Guidebook and Workbook, p 10 – 26, p 62 – 64.

For appropriate texts and activities, please see:
The Lively World of English, Book 1, p 1 – 83, 145 – 161

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