Blog | English Language Learning | Centre For Excellence

VESL Workshop: Verb Tense Refresher

  • Verb Tense Refresher

The following blog post was written by Dara MacKay, a faculty member at the School of Global Access. Dara recently planned and facilitated a VESL workshop called Verb Tense Refresher.

Since 2005, VESL (the Volunteer ESL Tutor Training Project) has supported the professional development of volunteer ELL tutors throughout the city of Calgary. The project is funded by Calgary Learns and is the collaborative effort of three Calgary ELL service providers with long-standing volunteer programs: Bow Valley College, the Calgary Public Library, and the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society. 

On March 6, 2018, I had the pleasure of facilitating a workshop for some amazing volunteers. The subject was verb tenses. It was a jam-packed night full of lots of information, activity, and some really talented and enthusiastic volunteers.  

The first thing we discussed was the difference between tense and aspect. For the purposes of our workshop, we identified that English has three verb tenses: past, present, and future (although we know that future tense is kind of a cheating tense, but we didn’t get too much into that). We defined tense as a verb’s fixed place in time. 

The second distinction we made was the difference between tense and aspect. Aspect, we defined as a verb’s relationship with time. There are three aspects we discussed: simple, continuous and perfect. The combination between tense and aspect gives us the six ‘tenses’ we explored for the rest of the evening.  The chart below explains the relationship between each one.

Verb Tense Refresher

We went through them according to tense and identified how they are formed, why they are used and practiced by writing several examples, as well as playing some easy games and doing small, simple activities to help understand and retain the information.  All of this information can be found here: Verb Tense Refresher

The second half of the workshop was focused on ways to teach and practice each tense.  Participants were given a verb tense + aspect and had to prepare a way to teach a partner and practice the tense using a list of suggested engaging activities, which you can also find linked below.  

Overall, the workshop felt like a success. The participants were enthusiastic and left with a simplified understanding of the tenses and aspects we talked about, as well as some great activities to use with language learners.