How to Put Together the Parts & Pieces that Make Language Work: Grammar Competencies Part 2

We have already discussed Alphabet Competencies, Phonics & Spelling, and Vocabulary. Take a look at those articles to refresh your memory, and let's move on to how to approach the broad topic of English Grammar
In English-language instruction, grammar (phrase and sentence structure) is fundamental. That’s because it pervades all language skills (listening, speaking, reading, writing, etc.). 
From our home pagehere is the general plan of our 10 wide-ranging “Language Competency Teaching & Learning Parts & Pieces” that work in both English language schooling and teaching. Click on puzzle piece D. Apply Grammar for the 15 Primary Competencies D-00 to D-16 and over 150 Pieces (units, chapters, lessons, games, and other materials to download for free or at low cost).
Competency Puzzle Piece D = Apply Grammar
Though far from perfect or complete, the entire body of knowledge of English grammar has been divided into the following segments, with a focus on the competencies. The lessons ("Parts & Pieces") for competencies D-00 through D-16, have been numbered for easier access. They will all soon be found in our online product storefront through D. Apply Grammar.
  • D-00 Get the Idea of Grammar. (5 Parts & Pieces)
  • D-01 Use the Verb Be. (15 Parts & Pieces)
  • D-02 Use Base Verbs. (7 Parts & Pieces)
  • D-03 Use the Simple Present. (7 Parts & Pieces)
  • D-04 Master the Present Time Frame. (14 Parts & Pieces)
  • D-05 Use Kinds of Nouns & Noun Markers. (28 Parts & Pieces)
  • D-06 Move with Modals (Verbs). (11 Parts & Pieces)
  • D-07 Approach the Future. (9 Parts & Pieces)
  • D-08 Use the Simple Past. (10 Parts & Pieces)
  • D-09 Retreat to the Past Time Frame. (8 Parts & Pieces)
  • D-10 Summarize & Compare All Times Frames. (8 Parts & Pieces)
  • D-11 Do More with Verbs & Verbals. (13 Parts & Pieces)
  • D-12 “Clean Up” with Other Parts of Speech. (15 Parts & Pieces)
  • D-13 Perfect Use of the Perfect Verb Tenses. (13 Parts & Pieces)
  • D-14 Fall into the Passive. (4 Parts & Pieces)
  • D-15 Put Sentence Elements Together. (6 Parts & Pieces)
  • D-16 Expand into Noun & Adverb Clauses. (5 Parts & Pieces)
As the “Parts & Pieces” for each of the sixteen competencies, D-00 to D-16, are added to our store, you’ll be able to click and access over 156 items including grammar “Sub-Competencies.” Resource Guide ideas, educational Card Packs with Activity & Idea Books, and more.
Our first blog on how to “Apply Grammar” was "How to Put Together the Parts & Pieces That Make Language Wokr: Grammar Competencies." 
Competency Puzzle “Apply Grammar” Pieces D-01 to D-04: Use the Verb BE; Use Base Verbs; Use the Simple Present; Cover the Present Time Frame 
This article is the second installment of Grammar Competencies, its focus is “the Present.”  Included are directives on how to “Use the Verb BE,” “Use Base Verbs,” “Use the Simple Present,” and “Cover the Present Time Frame.” 
First, a commentary on four broad areas of teaching/learning grammar + phrase/sentence structure related to “the Present.” Within the paragraphs are sample segments to download and use right away for instruction. There are also links to a number of other Parts & Pieces on our website.
D-01. Use the Verb BE.
Formal EFL/ESL courses organized by grammatical sentence patterns often begin with the verb "be." In English courses, however, this starting point may seem illogical. There, initial sessions focus on “meeting & greeting” which tend to start with interjections like “Hello!” “Good!” or “Welcome!”; with other verbs like come (in), sit (down), take (this), look, or listen; with participants’ names; with common nouns like (a) card, (some) chairs, or (this) class; with adjectives or adverbs like right, here, or now; and the like.
Even rank beginners are likely to understand and react to introductory words like those, especially when they’re “defined” by gestures.
In grammatical explanations and practice, the verb be can be difficult to teach or master. It has a large number of forms (am, is, are; was, were, [to] be, been, being). It forms contractions (I’m, it’s, you’re, aren’t, etc.). It has different uses/functions (as a main, intransitive, linking, helping, or nonaction verb; as an infinitive or gerund; with a filler subject; in the active vs. passive voice; and so on.)
That's why some courses of instruction begin with affirmative and negative imperative verbs like “Start” or “Go” or “Don’t talk.” Others may first prepare to deal with the verb be by attending to related sentence elements, such as singular and plural nouns, numbers, adjectives before nouns, prepositional phrases, or vocabulary with its spelling. As an example, the 13 pages of WorkLifeEnglish, Workbook 1: Life Skills, Chapter 1 (Magic): Name & Count Things provide an immediately usable sample of presentations and exercises containing no verbs at all—except thank (you)).
BE with THIS, THAT, THESE, THOSE.
Next, instructors/students can note and utilize the features of Be-statements with singular nouns like hat, book, shoe, or clock. They can combine the third-person singular forms is, ’s, and isn’t with the demonstrative pronouns this and that, common in noun-vocabulary instruction. In colorful materials like pages 5-10 of Chapter 1 ("Magic") of the new Scenario Book One: Beginning to Use English Grammar in Context, Statements with BE: Singular Forms, they can read or hear an amusing Strip Story exhibiting the grammar. Learners can demonstrate that they understand, choose and/or write correct wording, see applicable “Grammar Pattern Boxes,” practice relevant patterns, get suitable vocabulary, and engage in aural/oral activities incorporating targeted grammar in classroom-related real life. 
And quickly, before losing enthusiasm or the thread of instruction, they can go on to distinctions between singular & plural, nouns & pronouns, and other verbs (vs. be). Parallel to the segment you downloaded above are pages 11-16 of Chapter 1 ("Magic") of the new Scenario Book One: Statements with BE: Plural Forms. Having grasped their purpose and format, learners will efficiently acquire relevant patterns and rules. Through contextualized explanation, exercises, and activities, they’ll incorporate (and master) the grammar needed to name any items in English.
The Present Forms of BE.
Eventually, of course, English teachers/learners will want to understand and make use of all present forms of the verb be, full and contracted, singular and plural, affirmative and negative. One engaging way for participants to do so is to talk/write about people—themselves and their relatives, their occupations, their places of origin, and their (personality) attributes. All of these can be stated with Be-sentences. As an example, the beginning of Chapter 2 (“A Long Speech—& Different People”) of the New Scenario Book One: Statements with BE, Pronouns, Adjective, & Prepositional Phrases offers a rambling presentation of this grammar, followed by comprehension checks, explanation, exercises, vocabulary, and activities.
Would you like the complete chapter, which includes the vocabulary of Job Titles; Family Relationships; Subject & Object Pronouns + Possessive Adjectives; Geographical Places & Nationalities; and Adjectives to Describe People—with effective Getting Acquainted Games? Then access the complete 20-page D-01.06 New Scenario Book One, Chapter 2: Statements with BE. Benefit from its “Accessory Grammar,” innovative exercises,  types, and whole-class/dyad interaction opportunities. 
    
BE in Sentences with the “Fillers THERE and IT.”  
As mentioned, the verb be appears in sentence structures that accommodate few other verbs, such as statements and questions with “the Fillers THERE & IT.” As a kind of pronoun, the word there is often used with be to express the existence of delayed noun subjects, as in “There’s a restaurant here” or “There are many people inside.” An immediately useable sample is pages 42-49 of Unit 3 ("The Hungry Man") of the Original Scenario Book One: There Is/Thre Are. After a tongue-in-cheek Script that illustrates the frustration newcomers to a place might feel, the download moves on to comprehension, grammar explanation, and exercises. It ends with interactive and expressive activities—both oral “Dyad Tasking” and written “Place Compositions.”   
For a comparable chapter with color in expanded Explanations, Exercises, & Activities, you can download, purchase, and use the 10-page D-01.10 New Scenario Chapter 4 (“The Neighborhood”).
Instead of setting up “delayed subjects,” the “Filler IT” can appear in sentences with be that give information about Time (clocks, days, dates, years, etc.) and Weather. For Beginners, here’s a simple Strip Story with practice from WorkLifeEnglish, Workbook 1: Life Skills, Chapter 5 (“It’s a Nice Day”): Times & Places. Other constructions with impersonal it (including those with other verbs and in other time frames) come up in materials that deal with “higher level” grammatical subject matter.
BE in Yes/No & Wh-Questions with Answers
Yes/No questions with forms of be will get learners into an unusual feature of everyday English: inverted subject-verb order in sentences with rising intonation that anticipate a response that includes or is equivalent to “Yes” or “No.” Chapter 3 (“Curiosity—& Knowledge”) of the New Scenario Book One: Yes/No & Information Questions with BE, with Answers dedicates 1/3 of its pages to covering this important anomaly, which prepares learners for insertion of filler words like do or does in present questions with other verbs. Pedagogy in Sentence-Structure Charts illustrates these Question & Answer Patterns. Text users apply them in comprehension and other exercises, the context of which is School-Subject Matter—in these pages, Astronomy & Physical Sciences—and Famous People. All that’s needed for interactive grammar practice in educational Guessing Games is included. 
Next come all sorts of Wh-questions with be. These may begin with Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?—as well as question-phrases with these words. Such questions are particularly fun and productive to learn to say or write because their (short) answers deliver appealing subject-matter information—names of famous people; job titles/common nouns for people/species; definitions of terms; words for objects + other items; clock or calendar times; locations of places on Earth & beyond; reasons for phenomena; numbers, amounts, descriptive adjectives, adverbs of manner; and more.
Because factual Question & Answer material provides review of already acquired grammar patterns while suggesting future points to cover, text users can reinforce and improve their grammatical abilities by exchanging other kinds of knowledge. The remaining 16 pages of D-01.13 New Scenario One, Chapter 3: Curiosity—& Knowledge, Questions & Answers with BE can do much of the work. Among their features are Wh-Question/Answer Sentence-Structure Charts & Explanations; Wh-Questions to Complete/Arrange & Match with Answers; Word Grids to Form Queries from; Illustrated (Labeled) Vocabulary for Interactive Exchanges; a Future Calendar with Days & Dates of Holidays & Events to Work with; and a 60-Box Subject-Matter Quiz Game with Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? Column Heads to use in structured and beyond-the-text learning activities. It will soon be available for download, purchase, use, and re-use.
Review & Summary of Present Forms & Uses of Be.
After covering the four “Grammar Sub-Topics” above, teachers/learners may be ready or eager to recap and sum up. Even sections of older, traditional grammar texts can suffice, like Unit 4 (“The Dream”) of the Original Scenario Book One: Summary & Review of the Verb BE. Along with two Sentence-Structure Charts, these 3 pages offer three Two-Level Instruction Sets for interaction: “Talking It Over,” “Writing It Down,” and “Putting It Together.” 
Or would you prefer more attractive, comprehensive materials updated from the above? The 10-page D-01.15 New Scenario Chapter 5 (“Dreams”) has often been used not only for Review & Summary of Sentences with BE, but also as a “Midterm Exam” in Multi-Level Community College ESL Grammar/Writing Courses. There are many sections to choose from: leveled Instructions; a complex “Clutter Scene” to describe; a full page of “Sentences with Be Review & Summary Charts”; simple “Circle the Correct Words” items in paragraphs; continuation of the narrative with one-starred (*) fill-in-the-blank items; two– and three-starred (** ***) question-building and “Knowledge-Quiz” activities; topic choices for paired writing-as-a-process place descriptions; categorizing lessons with vocabulary grouping games; classification compositions.
D-02. Use Base Verbs.
“Base Verbs” are action words without endings like –s, ing, -ed. They don’t have “number” (singular or plural) or (present/past/future) tense forms. The most common, realistic way to practice them is with “imperative verbs.” Of course, these occur in lists of instructions—for filling out forms, taking tests, assembling parts, repairing things—and in recipes or bolded step-by-step paragraph heads at websites like wikiHow to do anything. But at the beginning of English instruction, procedures or techniques of “Total Physical Response,” (TPR = a method centered around directives + movement) may be even more productive in vocabulary, content, or grammar lessons. Here’s a sample of this approach from WorkLifeEnglish, Grammar 2: English in Everyday Life, Chapter 1 (Getting There): Give & Follow Instructions & Directions.
For higher-level explanation, exercises, and activities that target imperative verbs, take a look at D-02.05 New Scenario Chapter 6 (“Do This! Don’t Do That!”) Directive Sentences (with Objects) & Adverbs. Enjoy the irreverent “Follow-Instructions Race.” Use the entertaining exercises and games to anchor the grammar. And keep in mind that when “base verbs” are the focus, it can be an opportune time to build vocabulary—of objects that follow transitive verbs, for instance; of adjectives that pair with linking verbs; or of phrasal verbs (with adverb “particles" that alter their meaning). These “Grammar/Vocabulary Sub-Topics” invite the motivating fun of Pantomime, Action-Sequencing, Transitive-Verb + Noun-Objects Domino-Card Play, and more. 
D-03. Use the Simple Present.
Targeted “Simple Present-Tense” grammar patterns are 1st & 2nd-Person & Plural Statements, Affirmative & Negative; 3rd-Person Singular Verbs with -(e)s Endings; Yes/No & Wh-Questions with Answers. Often, these are explained and practiced in “traditional” grammar chapters such as D-03.05 = Parts One & Three of WorkLife English, Workbook 1: Life Skills, Chapter 7 (“People”): Present Statements & Questions.
Conventional exercises are probably useful. Even so, elemental sentence patterns like those of the Simple Present prepare/motivate participants to engage in more entertaining or alluring activities, including some that go way beyond the text by encouraging real interaction and a full measure of self-expression. Updated and colorized, here’s D-03.07 New Scenario Chapter 7 (“Work, Work, Work!”) Simple Present Statements—with Frequency Adverbs. It contains the usual flippant Opening Conversation; structured Comprehension & Grammar Exercises (after “Grammar Pattern Boxes”); Vocabulary (Phrasal Verbs, Frequency Adverbs, Verb + Object Phrases); Paired Interviews & Answer Chains. The chapter ends with a classic 20-frame Cartoon Story to arrange and narrate (in the Simple-Present, of course).   
To cover any verb-tense form, Questions (both Yes/No and Wh-) have to be included.  Again, the presentations, explanations, exercises, and activities in a conventional grammar-text chapter may suffice.  From D-03.03 WorkLifeEnglish Grammar 2: English in Everyday Life, Chapter 1 (“The Family”): Tell & Ask about People(’s Activities), here’s a typical sample. It contrasts 3rd-person singular verbs with base forms—and statement with question patterns + short answers.  
D-04. Cover the Present Time Frame.
So what else belongs in materials and lessons that encompass the present time frame? Certainly, there will be instruction in the “Present Continuous/Progressive Tense”—Affirmative & Negative, Singular & Plural Statements, Questions & Answers. Naturally, these will be contrasted with comparable Simple-Present Sentence Structures in relevant contexts. D-04.02 WorkLifeEnglish Grammar 2: English in Everyday Life, Chapter 9 (“Health”): Describe & Ask about Health Habits: The Present Continuous: Contrast with the Simple Present), is a straightforward segment that accomplishes these tasks.
At higher levels of learning proficiency, Vocabulary Lists are likely to direct learners’ attention to “Non-Action Verbs.” (These represent states of being, needs, preferences, possession, senses and other conditions that rarely appear in –ing verb phrases.) To help clarify distinctions, there will also be examples of Time Expressions common with contrasting tense forms. Even the pronunciation and/or spelling of verb forms will be covered. Pages 2 to 25 of Unit 1 (“The Generation Gap”) of the Original Scenario Book Two: The Present Tenses prove that as long as their language is contextualized, even conventional texts can do the job.
Forms and uses of the Present Perfect (Continuous) Tenses are covered in our Intermediate & Advanced Levels of English-language teaching materials. 
           
So where did all the text segments and full Parts & Pieces referred or linked to in this article come from? Here are links to complete books:
             

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For over 35 years, Work/Life English has been dedicated to improving the lives of English language learners. We offer a comprehensive range of fun, effective English language improvement lessons and activities to help adult education ESL educators successfully engage their English language students and improve their English competencies, leading to a host of positive effects in students’ professional and personal lives. Better English, Better Life. For more information, visit www.worklifeenglish.com.

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