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Conversation activities and perfect tenses

 
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jooooooey



Joined: 08 Sep 2009
Posts: 17

PostPosted: Mon Oct 31, 2011 4:41 pm    Post subject: Conversation activities and perfect tenses Reply with quote

I have a student (in a one-on-one) class that is fairly advaced. He wants to work on fluency, and in our classes I try to come up with conversational activities that focus on the areas of dificulty that he has.

He has the present tense, the past tense, the future tense, and even the present perfect tense down farily well. However, he never uses the stranger perfect tenses (past perfect, present perfect continuous, etc.).

I am having the hardest time trying to find conversational activities or topics which use these rarer tenses. They are used so infrequently in conversation, that I`m having trouble creating a topic which focuses on them.

I can always do something like, "What is something you have been doing all day" or "Something you`ve been doing lately" or "What had you done before such and such event in your life" or something to that evect. But then he`s just repeating my form by rote because you can answer them "I read all day" or "I was playing a lot of baseball before I broke my leg." And also this is kind of open-ended and not focused.

Does anyone have any suggestions for creating this type of a lesson? Or some better elicitation techniques? Or a topic which facilitates these type of tenses? I`m having trouble finding much. I though I would ask. Thanks
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
Posts: 3012
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Mon Oct 31, 2011 10:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I usually contextualize past perfect by means of short narratives that come to a "strange pause" in which it would be natural to question "why". (For example, "So there I was on this dream date chatting to this beautiful girl, when suddenly this guy came up and told me to get out of the bar! Why, you ask? Because he was her ex, and they'd broken up only the day before!". Or "So I went to start the car and it wouldn't start. I['d] practically stripped the engine before I found out what was wrong...you'll never guess...yup, Tony had stuck a banana up the exhaust...AGAIN!"). Once this "answering" function is clear, you can possibly contrast it with how strange some of these anecdotes would sound told in "logical" rather than as-they-actually-happened order ("A girl broke up with her boyfriend...then she met me..."); that is, the as-they-actually-happened order is obviously the most natural and satisfying way (for both listener and speaker) to (re)tell this sort of thing. Anyway, there are lots of "mystery"-style things you can do with past perfect (especially with this being Halloween! See for example [the instances of past perfect and even p.p.progressive in] the '13 Scary Slips' story at the end of the following post: http://forums.eslcafe.com/teacher/viewtopic.php?p=39412#39412 . (Please be aware that Imageshack may be harbouring PC scam virus-scan pop-ups and the like nowadays though)).

The perfect progressives should eventually make sense to any student who has already grapsed past, present, progressive, and perfect in other combinations, and as you are already aware, some of these compound tenses are so rare as to probably not be worth the time mastering productively (versus receptively - try to find a few examples in e.g. the BNC@BYU - instructions here: http://forums.eslcafe.com/teacher/viewtopic.php?p=41753#41753 ), especially when might be as you say various "escape route" options available to the speaker (i.e. there's not always just one "straight-jacketed" way to say something). Although I'm not a great fan of "minimal pairs" generally, it might be useful to contrast sentences (and perhaps match them to pictures) along the lines of "You look like you've seen a ghost!" (> standard frightened person pic) versus "You look like you've been seeing a ghost! (> similar, but the person now has ruffled hair, wonky glasses, rucked-up clothing, and is covered in glowing kisses), or "Have you been drinking?" versus "Have you drunk?" (latter sounds more like an incomplete experiential - "Drunk what? Whiskey? Sake? What, exactly?").

I'll try to see if I can find some better activity ideas in some of my resource books, but as a lot of them are boxed up at the moment I can't promise anything (and the activities within 'em may not be that good anyhow!). Cool Wink


Last edited by fluffyhamster on Sat Nov 05, 2011 4:38 pm; edited 1 time in total
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jooooooey



Joined: 08 Sep 2009
Posts: 17

PostPosted: Tue Nov 01, 2011 4:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Okay, thank you, this helps. The pause idea is good.
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
Posts: 3012
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Tue Nov 01, 2011 6:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, the pause idea/pause-style discourse is good in that it leaves very little wriggle-out room - this seems to be one place past perfect really has to be used. I'm not sure though that it's the main (most frequent) use of the form - I suspect that the simple "retrospective pipe-laying" use in narratives, like you'll find in no end of stories (again, see that '13 Scary Slips'), is a fair bit more common. Then, a third use of the form is a "prospective" almost: "A new day had begun. The End." Anyway, I'll see if I can dig out some ratios of its usages. The unifying idea with all three uses is I guess a sort of "flashback".
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