Monday, 20 April 2015

When drawing lines makes Grammar make sense

Objective: Using timelines to present Past Simple- Past Continuous

Development Area:Reinforce the understanding of the use of Past Simple and Past Continuous and their concept

Age of Learners: 12- year-old, elementary school

Why using timelines? I have chosen to use timelines because they illustrate the meaning and form of Past Simple and Past Continuous and how these two tenses can be combined and refer to time and events.

This is the result of work done with my 12-year-old students, aimed at improving their understanding of Past tenses and their ability to use them accurately.The class had had difficulty in understanding the linguistic concept of those tenses given as an explanation. Furthermore, I aimed at reinforcing the guided learning of my students using the inductive method and giving my students the chance for self study and controlled practice of the forms. I had noticed that the deductive way of introducing the form and the rules was not helping the youngsters who were just learning them but not using them freely. They needed simplified explanation and an illustration of the different verb forms and other language items (conjunctions, i.e. when, while)


I.  I drew the timelines on the whiteboard with some pictures of the actions I wanted to present to the learners (photo attached). I wrote the sentences underneath so that they had a linguistic description of the events. I used coloured boxes to denote longer actions and the symbol ‘X’ to stress the change point of an action taking place. The conjunctions ‘when’ and ‘while’ were put in red lined boxes to be pointed out. 

II. Then I asked them to produce, orally ,similar examples based on the drawings. I let them copy the timelines from the whiteboard and I asked them to draw their own timelines at home, which should illustrate the sentences I gave them beforehand.

Here are some samples of their outcome:

Advantages of the method: The main advantage was that this new approach of grammar presentation gave a visual reference as to how these verb tenses are used. My students could immediately see how the verbs work and for learners with  a visual learning style it was a great help to perceive the function of those verb tenses. In addition, it was an enjoyable, relaxed way of presentation since my students were amused by seeing me struggling with drawing.

Anticipated problems: There was a small problem that I had anticipated. I had to carefully explain to them the symbols in my drawings so that they could understand and to draw their attention to them. When they came to the next lesson, some learners could not put the method into practice in its full extension and they had to redo it. Nevertheless, I think that it will be much easier and faster next time because these symbols can be used as a commonplace in our grammar explanations.

In my opinion, the students have enjoyed this new grammar presentation approach and they can always refer to it when they need to. I have also used it with  higher  level classes to present other tenses since I noticed that it is manageable for lower-level younger students

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