The present perfect and an information gap

 

Teaching tips

              Although some concepts can be successfully explained, many other things are best taught, not so much by explaining the idea, as by illustrating it. It is usually only the beginning teacher that places a great deal of faith in explanations. The rest of us have learned from the puzzled expressions on our students' faces that explanations -- even clear explanations -- are often not as effective for learning as clear examples are.

              Of all the English tenses, the present perfect is undoubtedly the most difficult one for students to learn and, for that reason, the most difficult one to teach. The trouble does not come from teaching the form. The form by itself is quite straightforward. The present perfect consists of have or has plus a past participle, that is, How long have you lived in Chico? How long has Nora been a TV reporter?

              Normally, it is not the form that causes the problem. Students do not have much trouble with how to form the present perfect. Instead, they have trouble understanding how to use the present perfect.

              One of the clearest and easiest ways of illustrating the present perfect is given in today's lesson. This lesson is designed to graphically illustrate the most obvious use of the present perfect -- when something started in the past and is still happening in the present. Before students are ready for this lesson they need to already be familiar with the present tense, with the past tense, and with the form of the present perfect.

              To begin the lesson, hand out a copy of the completed chart to the students. Have them write out ten true sentences about the chart. They can do this individually or in pairs. Although an advanced class might not need the help, for a less advanced class the model sentences given at the bottom of the students' completed chart might be quite useful.

              While the class is writing out their sentences, copy the teacher's blank chart on the board. When the students have finished writing out their ten sentences, have them help you fill in your blank chart by reading their sentences to you.

              If a student gives you an incorrect sentence, try to write what the student said on the chart. If there is a mistake, the rest of the class will catch it and correct it.

              To fill in the remaining gaps in your chart, it will also probably be necessary to ask them specific questions, such as What is Sharon doing now?, How long has Rob been a race car driver?, What did Megan do before?, and When was Megan a doctor?

              As you fill in the chart, point out that, as the chart shows, the present perfect is used for things that started in the past and are still true now. Using the tense chart, you can literally show the students that something started in the past and is still happening now!

              By the time the whole chart has been filled in, the students will have practised three different tenses: the present tense - for discussing what the people in the chart are doing now, the past tense for discussing what was done in the past, and the present perfect for discussing what was began in the past and is still happening now.

              Of course, this task, like most tasks, is even more effective if it is tailored to your specific class. Instead, of the names that we have used, use the names of your own students. Simply substitute a name of one of your students for one of the names in our chart. Also, depending upon the level and sophistication of your class, feel free to use other occupations than the ones we have picked, for example, stewardess, gossip columnist, movie star, policeman, famous writer, or even Prime Minister. That is, match the occupations to your students' own backgrounds and interests.



1997

1998

1999

2000

now

university student

Sharon
Kelly
Rob
Sharon

Rob
Sharon


race car driver


Kelly
Kelly
Jim
Andy
Kelly
Jim
Andy
Kelly
Jim
Andy

medical doctor



Megan
Rob
Megan
Rob
Megan
Rob
Megan

newspaper reporter


Andy

Andy

Sharon
Sharon

store owner

Jim
Fernando
Suzanne
Jim
Fernando
Suzanne


Suzanne


airplane mechanic


Megan

Fernando
Fernando
Suzanne
Fernando
Suzanne

          Students’ Chart: A filled-in present perfect chart

 



1997

1998

1999

2000

now

university student






race car driver






medical doctor







newspaper reporter






store owner







airplane mechanic







 

              Teacher’s Chart: A blank present perfect chart

               

              Instructions: Using the sample sentences below as models, make up true sentences using the information in this chart.

              Abdul is a reporter now.

              Abdul has been a reporter since 1997.

              Abdul has been a reporter for three years.

              Abdul has been a reporter from 1994 until now.