When I needed some fresh material for working in the past tense with my EFL, English as a Foreign Language, students in Barcelona, Spain I opted to create a short story. This three-paragraph narrative I wrote using only the past tense of regular verbs served not only for reading, but for grammar practice, spelling and pronunciation practice as well. For even more diversity and mileage, I later added comprehension questions and a verb chart for added practice activities.
It has worked quite well for me. To adjust for shorter practice time or other lesson planning constraints use only one paragraph for your activities and practice. It was considerably more difficult than I’d imagined to write such a highly-focused, structured piece but it continually serves to aid students even in its “artificial” language form. Writing it also flexed my creative writing muscles. Here’s the narrative text:
OUR ENCHANTED ANNIVERSARY EVENING
It happened to be our anniversary when we traveled to Barcelona, so my wife Doris and I planned a special evening out. I purchased a beautiful bouquet of red roses that smelled wonderful and a black pearl necklace that sparkled in the moonlight. I beamed as I presented them to Doris. She pinned a rose to her sequined lapel. Her auburn hair shimmered in the sunset’s bronzed glow. I called a checkered taxi and we passed many highlighted sights before we arrived in front of the restaurant. The waiter seated us as soon as we walked into the neon-signed restaurant. I noticed a secluded table. (22 verbs)
We positioned ourselves near an opened window and prepared to eat. My wife Doris looked at the selections listed on the menu and decided to have an appetizer. I picked the mushroom soup. A few minutes later the waiter returned. “What would you like to have?”, he asked. Doris ordered some steamed shrimp and broiled trout. I requested a tossed Cesar salad with a grilled steak and a baked potato. While we dined, we chatted and sipped a glass of white wine. Doris wolfed down her food but I savored the meal and chewed my steak slowly. When she finished, she munched on some pretzels. She soon gobbled up all the pretzels in the small bowl placed on the table. Later, we nibbled on a slice of decorated cheesecake as we talked. I wanted some coffee with my dessert. Doris preferred to drink iced tea. After the salted pretzels, Doris needed to drink some water. The waiter finally handed me the bill and I offered him a tip. We tipped him 15% of the totaled charges. He thanked us and smiled as we exited the restaurant. (40 verbs)
Outside the now closed restaurant, we strolled along the cobble-stoned street, stopped and laughed when we spotted a trained puppy that jumped and played with its owner. We then relaxed and watched the sunset from a padded park bench as the boats in the harbor rocked, pitched and bobbed on the water. Next, we watched a romantic movie at a new cinema that interested us. The aged couple in the movie argued and chased each other as they sailed down an unnamed river that tumbled and surged through rapids which boiled around jagged rocks. Frequently they were trapped and scared. When the colorized movie ended the two discovered that they really loved each other. Finally, at the disco, we danced, swayed to the music and hugged each other often. Whenever I kissed Doris she blushed and giggled. Both of us enjoyed our enchanted evening out together. We hope you liked our story. (41 verbs)
Try using this narrative, past-tense-of-regular-verbs-only text, wholly or in part to help your EFL or ESL, English as a Second Language, students with this all-important grammatical context. You can bold face or underline the targeted verb forms or remove them to create a “fill-in-the-blanks exercise. Add addition reading, writing or pronunciation-based activities for getting even more usefulness form this narrative. Your results may be even better than mine.
If you haven’t read “Six Quick Tricks for Learning a Language”, or another to the point piece entitled “Learning a Language: 6 Effective Ways to Use the Internet”, drop me an e-mail request at: [email protected] and I’ll send you a copy by return e-mail.