Teaching the Cycle of the Past – Practical Tips

We have already dealt with the Cycle of the Present and we are now moving to the Cycle of the Past.

I will deal with the Cycle of the Past  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 Past

According to my model of Tenses, the Cycle of the Past includes the following Tenses:

Past Simple

Past Progressive

Future Past

All Tenses will be taught in context and presented using appropriate, relevant texts.

We have to start with the structure of the Past Simple and the Past Progressive and pay special attention to the particular cases in which we use each of these tenses. It is important  to teach the Future Past right after the Past Simple and the Past Progressive to stress the fact that we usually don't use the Future Simple but the Future Past in a text in the Past.

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

One or more actions that took place in  the Past (there is an answer to the question: WHEN) – Past Simple
If we have two actions and one happened during the course of the other, the shorter one
Past Simple – and the longer one – Past Progressive.

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

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 Past Simple – structure and spelling exceptions including Irregular Verbs

Lesson 2 – Interrogative and Negative FormsWH Questions

Lesson 3 – Usage – When do we use this tense?

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

Lessons 7,8 – Future Past

Lessons 9,10 – Review and practice of the Cycle of the Past. You may wish to use my map of the Cycle of the Past.

Lesson plan:

1. Oral Activity – about 10 min.

Suggestions (Suitable subjects for class conversation):

Past Simple:

What we did yesterday.

What we did last weekend, last summer, etc.

What life looked like 50 years ago, what school looked like in the Past, before computers and smartphones became an integral part of our life.

Someone's biography (a famous writer, actor, politician)

Past Progressive:

What happened while we were sleeping, studying, working, etc.

Future Past:

Contunue the story:

When I was younger, I thought I would…

When my father came to Israel, he said he would…

2. Presentation of a 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.

In my next post I will bring examples of texts and exercises.

For more explanations, please see:
דקדוק אנגלי לדוברי עבריתp 27 – 41

For exercises, please see:
The New Language Guidebook and Workbook, p 27 – 32, p 66 – 70

For appropriate texts and activities, please see:
The Lively World of English, Book 1, p 280 – 316, 323 – 336, p 186 – 191

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