It’s not easy to teach this grammar point, but it is possible to do it well. You’ll just need to use these present perfect continuous timelines, along with the best games and activities.
Keep on reading for some quick tips to do it in style! The timeline way is the approach I use for teaching this potentially confusing English grammar tense. The confusion mostly lies in the difference between the continuous form and the present perfect. The different is subtle but keep on reading for all the details you need to know.
And of course, you could also consider using timelines when you’re teaching many verb tenses, particularly two or more of them at the same time, along with games and activities to help reinforce what you’ve taught.
Present Perfect Continuous vs. Present Perfect
In my advanced conversation class at a Korean university, Touchstone Level 3 has a section about the present perfect continuous and the present perfect. It’s actually quite complicated and at first glance, I didn’t even really understand the chart in the textbook..
It’s also not something that students understand really easily. So, using timelines for teaching this can be really useful.
Here’s how to do it.
What is the difference between these two sentences?
1. “I’ve been watching Survivor since I was in university.” (continuous)
2. “I’ve watched survivor since university.” (present perfect)
Both are talking about repeated activities that happen mostly in the past, but what is the difference between the two? It’s subtle and not something that even native speakers can put into words easily.
In the first case, it’s an activity that began in the past. However, it is still happening now.
In the second case, it’s an activity that began in the past. But, it’s a bit ambiguous as to whether or not the activity is happening now.
Make sense? Kind of? Keep on reading for more details about it.
Present Perfect Timelines
For this specific grammar point, I find it really useful to use timelines. Here’s what I show my students and the explanation that I give.
Present Perfect Continuous
Of course, you’ll want to follow this timeline stuff up with some controlled practice, freer practice and then an activity of some kind to help reinforce it!
If you just tell your students this explanation and then don’t practice, it’s almost like you’ve entirely wasted your time. Repetition is the key to any language learning, and difficult grammatical concepts like this one are no exception.
Top 5 Games and Activities
If you’re looking for a present perfect continuous activity or game then look no further! Here are some of the best ones to consider using in your English classes.
#1: Is this Sentence Correct?
An easy way to quickly review any sort of grammar or vocabulary is to use this activity. The way it works is that you write a few sentences on the board, some of which have errors and some of which don’t. In this case, the errors would focus on the verb forms and correct usage of them.
Students have to decide if the sentence is correct or not. If not, they have to correct it. Try it out for yourself!
#2: Film Clips with the Present Perfect Continuous
#3: Running Dictation
I LOVE this versatile activity and try to do it at least a couple of times a semester with each class. It lends itself particularly well to this topic because it’s based on a conversation between two people.
Students have to work together to dictate the conversation on their paper and then when it’s done, they have order the sentences to make a conversation. Want to know more about this versatile ESL game? Check it out here: Running Dictation.
#4: ESL Charades
Try out this fun charades style activity. Students have to mime what they’ve been doing and the other students have to guess what it is. Choose the answers carefully to get the best results with this one. Some ideas are:
- Singing in the shower
- Working out in the gym
- Studying all night for a test
- Cleaning the fridge
- Biking up a hill
#5: Present Perfect ESL Teaching Activities
More Details about Teaching the Present Perfect Continuous
If your students are like mine, and are maybe tired of hearing your voice, consider showing them this short video to help explain what the present perfect continuous is all about.
This is also a great strategy if you don’t feel that confident in explaining grammar concepts. Check on YouTube and you’re almost sure to find something you need.
Or, if you take a look at how a grammar point is explained in the textbook and feel confused yourself, this isn’t a good sign! If you’re confused, the students will certainly be too. Check out YouTube and you’re sure to find something that’ll work for you.
More Teaching Tips from Jackie
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Have your Say about Teaching the Present Perfect
How do you teach your students the difference between these two grammatical tenses? Or, do you have a go-to activity that you like to use? Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts. Do you have a go-to resource that you’d like to share with us?
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