How To Do Fix-It Grammar Along With The Writing Program Using Short Paragraph Stories to Teach Simple Past in English – Part 1

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Using Short Paragraph Stories to Teach Simple Past in English – Part 1

Whenever I have to teach Simple Past Tense in English, one activity I always use is to practice speaking and writing using some short “stories” I’ve made up. Writing them was much more difficult than I originally imagined, as using only regular verbs in a narrative is not really authentic language. Native speakers just don’t speak that way. But to give my EFL English students some practice in writing the correct past tense forms and especially in pronouncing them, I made up some short words using only this form. They are harder to read and pronounce than “normal” ones, but intensive practice seems to be quite helpful. So I continue to use them even though I know this speech pattern will not appear in natural English speech.

Since all my learners are from a Spanish-speaking country in South America, Colombia, they usually have trouble pronouncing the -ed verb ending in its various forms. I had noticed the same tendency for pronunciation problems with -ed regular verb endings in other Spanish-speaking areas, so I prepared exercises to help with this early on. Students in Puerto Rico, Mexico, Panama, and Ecuador have benefited from these simple “stories.” I hope that perhaps your EFL/ESL students will too.

TEFL Learners can read story paragraphs aloud, focusing on correct pronunciation of verb endings. They can fill in the blank endings in the paragraph to practice adding -ed or just -d as required. They will also practice when to change “y” to “i” before adding -ed. For example, Play becomes played, and stay becomes stayed, but try and cry becomes tried or cred. Stories can be cut into strips and rearranged, acted out as a ‘sketch’, pantomime or various written exercises and comprehension activities can be added. As an additional feature, I bold verbs in paragraphs.

I tried to create short stories that would also be of interest. One is set in the Old West and is called The Sheriff of Calico County. The others happen during a visit to the zoo, respectively during a bank robbery. They are titled “The Zoo” (169 words) and “The State Bank” (131 words). Bit of catchy headlines, eh? Only a little “writing license” was taken in creating these short stories in paragraphs. Hey, it worked for Shakespeare, right?

Here are two examples for you to try.

The zoo

Last Wednesday we decided to visit the zoo. We arrived the next morning after breakfast, redeemed our passes and entered. We went to the first exhibits. I looked at a giraffe staring at me. I nervously stepped into the next area. One of the lions was watching me as he lazed in the shade while the others napped. One of my friends first knocked and then hit the tempered glass in front of the monkey’s cage. They howled and screamed at us as we hurried to another exhibit where we stopped to stare at feathered birds. After resting, we headed to the zoo where we petted the woolly sheep who just looked at us, but the goats would pounce and nibble on our clothes when we dared to get too close to their closed pen. Later, our tired group made their way through the crowded aisles and out the turnstile door. Our car jolted, jolted and rocked as we dozed off on the leisurely ride home.

The State Bank

This morning at 8:33 someone robbed the State Bank downtown. The thief entered the bank and said he wanted all their money. The thief smiled but looked very tired. The enumerators looked worried. The thief got the money he asked for, asked to be excused, then made a quick exit as the door swung open. He dashed down the street and screeched away in a wrecked car that rattled, screeched and smoked. It turned out that he really needed the money. The police soon arrived. They rushed and chased down the street. They searched and questioned passers-by, but the thief disappeared. The police were unable to catch him. Investigators dropped the case and neglected to do anything else. The money was never recovered and the thief was never identified, the incident report closed.

In part two of this article series, I demonstrate using a similar style but much longer piece to practice the simple past tense of regular verbs. If you make it and want to try one or two more of my “stories” just email me for more. Better yet, try your hand at inventing your own. Either way, I’m glad to be able to share them with you and would love to hear how they worked for you and your EFL/ESL English learners. So, feel free to let me know how well they worked (or didn’t) for you.

Luck

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