The following grammar exercise on the past simple is from our book Outcomes Elementary (National Geographic Learning). Students complete the sentences with the correct past simple form of verbs given in brackets at the end of sentences – resulting in the following.
1 I had lunch with my parents.
2 I went to the beach with some friends.
3 We stayed at home and relaxed.
4 I watched a football match on Saturday.
5 There was a free concert in town.
6 Some friends came to our house for dinner.
7 I went shopping and bought some new shoes.
8 I spent all weekend studying for an exam.
Obviously, when going through the answers, teachers can correct and focus on the past simple forms, but attention can also be drawn to other chunks and patterns in the sentences that could help students say new things. In general, our technique is to work with the whole class: say one or two more examples and see if students can think of others. This means that when you elicit the correct answer to number 1 – had – you then ask then class questions like “OK. I had lunch with my parents. Anything else that I maybe had with them?” or “OK. I had lunch with my parents. Anyone else maybe I had lunch with?” By doing this, you might expect to end up with something like the variations below:
1 I had dinner with my parents.
I had dinner with some friends.
I had a coffee with some friends.
2 I went to the cinema with some friends.
I went to a friend’s house.
3 We stayed at home and watched TV.
I stayed at home and did my homework.
4 I watched the Chelsea match on Saturday.
I watched a film on Friday.
6 My brother and his family came to my house for dinner.
Some friends came to my house for lunch.
7 I went shopping and bought a new TV.
I went shopping and bought this shirt.
8 I spent all Saturday studying.
I spent all Saturday working.
Note that not all sentences necessarily provide examples of useful, generative patterns – and obviously you probably wouldn’t want to look at every single one of the patterns above. For instance, perhaps you might decide that the chunk spend time doing is too difficult for the level, or for your group.
Students will also make mistakes when they try to produce their own version of these patterns – or they may produce sentences which seem strange to you. You can either correct these or ask questions about them. For example, once when I taught this exercise, a student offered I had breakfast with my students. When I said ‘Really?’ and tried to find out more, he explained (in broken English) that he was a teacher at a university and lived on campus, so often did this.
Have you noticed / exploited any patterns in exercises that you have done recently?
And remember: if you’d like to ask how we might exploit the language in any particular exercise, you can send us the list of words or completed exercise with a reference via info@lexicallab.