verb tenses

Working on English Tenses: A Train Station

Pedagogical objectives

Oral expression

Linguistic objectives

Tenses and in particular the Present Perfect vs Present Perfect and the Continuous Past vs Simple Past contrasts.

Time words: still; for; ago; since.


Elementary/Lower Intermediate



Cuisenaire rods or similar


1 to 6 hours depending on the students’ readiness to make proposals and explore all the possibilities

General procedure

Only the teacher moves the rods. The teacher says nothing other than the phrases shown in green. The teacher does not model the sentences in blue – they are only produced by the students – not  usually correctly the first time, of course.

In this deductive approach, the students work out for themselves how to express their thoughts and feelings about a situation whose meaning is visible to them. The teacher’s role is to guide them to see what is considered significant in English and to formulate it accurately – the tense distinctions that are natural in English in this situation may not be made in the students’ native language(s). Because the meaning of the evolving situation is directly available, teacher explanations are redundant.
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