Competency Puzzle “Apply Grammar” Pieces D-08 through D-09: Use the Simple Past; Relate to the Past Time Frame
At the Present time, it still feels “novel” (strange or odd) to complete or get ordinary articles with downloaded Parts & Pieces that teach English Grammar, especially a linguistic topic like Verb Phrasing. And with the “new normal” proliferating, it will (be feeling) / is going to feel / is about to feel the same—or even weirder—in the Future. Even so, what’s missing now is how it felt / used to feel / was feeling in The Past. So it’s about time, isn’t it, to look back at former periods of time in order to move on.
Here’s the old familiar graphic of the major ten Puzzle Parts & Pieces most likely to fit together in a coordinated (or random) program of instruction. As before, we’re set and ready to move beyond (D.) Apply Grammar. So we’ve surrounded the Puzzle Pieces with wisdom related to the grammatical subject matter we’re addressing at present: the Past. These quotations may or may not relate to your understanding about the importance of incorporating past periods of time into relationships (with humanity) in the present and/or the future.
But, paying attention to ways and means of using effective grammar to express facts, ideas, and thoughts about time gone by can easily be connected to worthwhile topics like Memories, Life Situations, Lessons to Learn, Living in the Past, Beating Hearts, Thinking Back, Human History, Gratefulness, and more.
Competency Puzzle “Apply Grammar” Pieces D-08 thru D-09: Use the Simple Past; Relate to the Past Time Frame
This is the sixth installment of the Series: “How to Put Together Puzzle Parts & Pieces That Make Language Work: “Apply Grammar” Competencies D-00 through D-28.”
We focus on Parts & Pieces D-08.01 through D-09.09, Simple Past Forms + All (Ad)Verb Phrasing in the Past Time Frame. Individually downloadable segments embrace grammatical word-level vocabulary—(pronunciation / spelling of) regular vs. irregular past verbs; structural patterns of the simple, continuous, habitual, and unfulfilled past; and uses of sentence elements to accommodate your thoughts or ideas about past time (as related to the present / future ).
Following is commentary on a few of these pieces of material. Within their paragraphs are sample segments to download and use for (self-)instruction right away, including a number of complete Parts & Pieces. Each offering includes ideas on what to talk about / consider in a world of limited movement but unlimited thought and language.
D-08.01 to D-08.10 = the Simple Past Tense
Because of the rules for creating regular affirmative-past verbs—and the many irregular forms that need to be assimilated, the syntactic category known archaically as “the Preterite” is more challenging to deal with than other phrasing with past meaning. Even so, in a structured sequence of grammar lessons targeting verbs, it’s the Simple Past that usually comes up first—well before the Progressive, Habitual, or Unfulfilled Past.
Therefore, at novice to beginning language-proficiency levels, it makes sense to get right to the use of Regular Past-Tense Verbs in Affirmative & Negative Statements; of Question Patterns; and of Irregular Verb Parts. So here in rudimentary—but still multi-page—format is D-08.01: Parts One to Three of Chapter 9, on “Work,” from WorkLife English WorkBook 1: Life Skills.
Like more complete lessons, this excerpt begins with a Strip Story (“Last month I needed a job.”) that contrasts past with present forms, which learners then distinguish from one another. They copy regular past verbs; compare negative past-verb phrasing with affirmative; and get and form past questions with be vs. other verbs. As it’s “supposed to,” the segment ends with very common irregular affirmative past-verb forms, in the context of telling about past experience. Its situations are easily relatable to other circumstances in which beginners are likely to hear and need to produce the Simple Past.
Longer, more thorough, chapters designed to cover these verb-tense forms usually expend more space on the Vocabulary of Irregular Verbs. Such is the case with the “amusingly retro” D-08.06: Unit 17: the Simple Past Tense (“Gossip: Carol got married last week.”) of the Original Scenario Volume One: English Grammar in Context. Its grammar presentation is an over-the-back-fence Scenario of talk about what happened—with Comprehension Exercises. After old-fashioned boxed pedagogy and practice in Affirmative & Negative Statement & Question Patterns (including spelling the regular past), text users move to atypical forms, grouped according to orthographic / pronunciation changes that occur when base verbs are transformed to past. Contextualized in fun stories and puzzle-like exercises, these please as well as instruct.
And even when it’s central to grammar instruction, Vocabulary Building lends itself to the motivating diversion of educational pastimes and games, such as the over a dozen teaching / testing activities and competitive / cooperative card games detailed in D-08.07: Beginning Verb Forms Activity & Idea Book (for Use With or Without a Two-Sided [Paired] 72-Card Pack). This half-sized 40-page resource begins with facts about “verb parts” + reasons for teaching / learning them through (card) activities and games. Then come suggested designs for double-sided (illustrated) Verb Cards optimized for learning because they also provide both item definitions and examples-of-use-in context.
Most of the Activity & Idea Book, moreover, is devoted to how-to-instructions. Step by step, users can get ready for lessons; do Vocabulary Chains; provide “catch-up” for students that need it; prepare to use Verb-Parts Cards; and participate in card activity or play. Classic games include “Speed Matching,” “Snapping Up Verbs,” “Odd Verb Out,” “Pass the Verb Card, Please,” “Go Fishing for Verbs,” and “Verb-Form Concentration.” Educational Follow-Up consists of “Verb-Meaning Charts,” “Verb-Part Usage,” “Verb Phraseology,” and “Verbs in Context.” And of course, there are Reference Lists of Verb Parts, not only at Beginning Levels, but also at Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced stages of verb-vocabulary acquisition.
Just about anyone—instructors, helpers, and/or learners—can produce and devise ways to utilize packs of matching Verb Parts Cards. If you’d like more motivating color, however, with the input you’ll need to assure comprehension of the meaning & uses of the items, you’re probably better off simply downloading the components.
Just click on D-08.10: 72 Doubled-Sided Cards in a Great-Grammar Beginning-Level Verb Parts Pack (36 Base Forms with Definitions + 36 Past-Forms with Illustrations of Verb Meanings. Print out the 16 page images of the file back-to-back (flipped on long edge) so that you end up with eight filled 8.5 x 11" sheets of stiff paper. Noting that the first four reversible pages display “Base Verbs” with Definitions on their backs—and the other four, “Simple-Past Verbs” illustrated by captioned pictures on the other sides, cut apart the nine double-sided Verb Cards of each sheet.
Arrange the 72 Cards into two sets of 36 each. Match the corresponding Verb Parts. Using the materials as Flash Cards, can you recall the Base Verbs from explanations of their meanings? Can you put the Past Verbs into the blanks of their illustrated contexts? Try out some of the activities and/or games described in D-08.08: Beginning Verb Forms Activity & Idea Book. Invent and enjoy even more creative and effective ways to learn Verb-Parts vocabulary.
And for lower (Basic) or higher (Intermediate, Advanced) leveled Verb- Parts Card Packs—with Activity & Idea Books, look behind Puzzle Piece D: Apply Grammar. Go to segments and products numbered D-08.07 to D-08.08.
D-09.01 to D-09.08 = the Past-Time Frame
Although most students of English tend to focus on Verb Parts, especially irregular Simple-Past Verbs, there are more “grammar topics” to teach / learn in order to understand, talk, read, and write about events and actions that happened in the Past Time Frame. After the Simple-Past, the most frequent of these is the Past Continuous, called “the Progressive Past” in the past. Paralleling the Present Continuous, this form consists of was / were (n’t) Verb + ing.
In D-09.02: Part Three of Chapter 6, on “Money,” from WorkLife English Grammar 3: An Immigration Story, a Strip Story aimed at “Understanding Warranties, Refunds, & Exchanges” informs us that “Lu & Helena have or are having problems with their new TV,” . . . so they called and visited the Eectrager Elonics Store, where many other dissatisfied customers were waiting to complain, but the manager wasn’t paying attention, so . . .
To find out what happened, study the grammar: Past vs. Present (Simple vs.) Continuous Affirmative vs. Negative Statements vs. Questions & Answers (with Verbs in Action vs. Non-Action Meanings). And do the Exercises. And when you think you’ve got the grammar, go beyond the book to have your own shopping experiences and tell your own story.
Other past-verb phrasing is less common, so instruction in it is likely to be brief—probably incorporated into a fuller chapter targeting the Past-Time Frame. Here are three more excerpts (7 pages) on past-time subtopics from separate grammar texts:  pages 56-57 of Chapter 3: “Dealing with Problems” from WorkLife English 4: Cross-Cultural Communication,  page 57, Lesson 26 from Chapter 3 “Government & Law” of WorkLife English 6: Issues & Answers, and  pages 54-57 from Unit 3: “the Good Old Days” of the Original Scenario, Volume 2: English Grammar in Context.
The first two of these segments (2 + 1 pages) feature “Past Repeated or Habitual Activity.” The phrase (didn’t) use(d) to + Base Verb is the most familiar in this meaning; structurally in statements and questions, its main verb use functions like any regular past-tense part.
Another way to express past custom / habit that no longer exists is with the modal-verb phrase would(n’t) + Base Verb, generally not used in this denotation with non-action verbs like be, exist, have, etc. Its modal would contracts with subject pronouns, as in I’d, we’d, he’d, they’d, etc.
Finally, as presented in the third segment, “the Future in the Past” conveys the idea of unfulfilled plans (past intentions that didn’t become events). Included with the original Scenario, “the Good Old Days,” the section ends with a brief summary of four ways to communicate about past eras, generations, and times.
Ready to bring all four kinds of Past-Verb Phrasing together in an all-encompassing, flashy, upgrade? In all its 1920s to 2020s glory, here’s D-09.08 Chapter 3: the Past Time Frame (“the Good Old Days”) of the New Scenario Book Two: Continuing to Use English Grammar in Context?
In its colorful Scenario, two nonagenarians converse with two teenagers about what they did, were (always) doing, often used to do / would do, and were going to do, but didn’t—when the two oldsters were about the same age as the two youngsters are now. You / your language students get to learn about past eras (a century ago, decades ago, years ago, even days ago). Then while enjoying lively commentary about the Roaring Twenties, you all can engage in puzzle-like exercises, detailed grammar analysis, and fill-ins that parse and compare various aspects of past-verb phrasing and time expressions. As expected, lots of vocabulary shows up, including the “1st & 2nd Verb Parts” as well as items referring to past events, trends, and life styles—all to be compared with what’s going on now. The Chapter culminates in decade-by-decade photo montages from bygone eras—which in our present “new normal” might extend up to yesterday. And then there are quite a few questions to give answers to—about childhood, youth, or just the “good old days.”
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