How to Teach the Present Continuous Tense

Our five-part present continuous lesson series is available to you. Designed for ESL tutors running their own private lessons and tutorials.

Learning the present continuous tense is essential to achieve natural speech. Many intermediate ESL students can effectively express themselves using just the past, present and future simple. Yet, for natural speech, it is important for students to become familiar and comfortable with the continuous tenses. The present continuous tense is often the first continuous tense that an ESL learner will tackle and it is a challenge. For these reasons, we are proud to announce the release of our present continuous lesson plan series! You can access the series here.

Challenges in teaching the present continuous tense

Many teaching strategies for the present continuous tense focus on the different uses. The variety of uses can be daunting for many students. Imagine trying to grasp that the tense is used for for events happening now, unfinished events, periods around now and for plans in the future… before being able to construct it! Our strategy for teaching is reversed. Our lesson plan series (Present-Continuous 1 to 5) focuses on teaching the construction of the tense before its different uses. Once the student becomes comfortable with the construction of the tense, we then explain uses.

Our Present Continuous Lesson Plan Series:

Our 5-part present continuous tense series is designed to take your students across the tense (positive, negative and question forms).
In Present-Continuous-1 we introduce the tense in the positive form. We focus on the construction of the tense and give a basic explanation of when to use it:
In Present-Continuous-2 we further explore the construction of the tense by introducing the negative form and positive and negative contractions. Again, we resist the need to focus on the different uses of the tense and we focus on the student becoming comfortable with its construction:
In Present-Continuous-3 we provide further reinforcement of the tense and begin to show its different uses through examples and explanations. Now that the student has been familiarized with construction, we begin to teach usage:
In Present-Continuous-4 we introduce yes/no and short answers to present continuous questions. We also introduce the use of question words (What, When, Why) in present continuous questions. The focus again is on construction and practicing speech.
In Present-Continuous-5 we aim to consolidate the learning. We now focus on different usages of the tense and further reinforce construction.
Often in English grammar we forget to first make the student comfortable with basic construction and focus too heavily on grammar theory. For the more challenging tenses in English we are taking the opposite approach. We think this approach lends itself especially well to private tutorials and small groups where your students are often focused on developing natural speech and language confidence.

Please let us know what you think of our teaching strategy!

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