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Using Short Paragraph Stories to Teach Simple Past in English – Part 1
Whenever I have to teach the Simple Past in English, an activity I always use is to practice speaking and writing with some short “stories” that I made up. Writing them was much more difficult than I had originally imagined, since using only regular verbs in a narrative is not really authentic language. Native speakers simply don’t speak like that. But, to give my English EFL students some practice in writing the regular verb forms in the past and especially in the pronunciation, I came up with a pair of shorts that only use this form. They are more difficult to read and pronounce than “normal”, but intensive practice seems to be very helpful. So, I continue to use it even though I know that this speech pattern does not occur in the natural English language.
Since my students are all from a Spanish-speaking country in South America, Colombia, they typically have a problem pronouncing the verb ending in -ed in its various forms. I had noticed the same propensity towards pronunciation problems with -ed endings of regular verbs in other areas of the Spanish language, so I prepared exercises to help with this first. Students in Puerto Rico, Mexico, Panama and Ecuador have benefited from these simple “stories” I hope that maybe your EFL/ESL students will too.
TEFL students can read the story paragraphs out loud, focusing on the correct pronunciation of the verb endings. They can fill in the blank endings in the paragraph to practice adding -ed or just -d as needed. They will also practice with when to change “y” to an “i” before adding -ed. For example, Play becomes played, and stay becomes stayed, but try and cry become tried or cry. The stories could be cut into strips and re-ordered, acted as a “skit”, pantomimed, or a variety of written exercises and comprehension activities could be added. As an added feature, I bold the verbs in the paragraphs.
I tried to create short paragraph stories that would also be of some interest. One is located in the Old West and is called “The Sheriff of Calico County”. The others take place during a visit to the zoo, and during a bank robbery, respectively. They are titled “The Zoo” (169 words) and “The Bank of the State” (131 words). Titles a bit catchy, isn’t it? There was just a little bit of “writing license” taken in creating these short paragraph stories. Hey, it worked for Shakespeare, didn’t it?
Here are two examples for you to try.
Last Wednesday we decided to visit the zoo. We arrived the next morning after breakfast, cashed in our passes and checked in. Let’s go to the first exhibits. I watched a giraffe as it stared at me. I nervously moved on to the next area. One of the lions was looking at me as he threw himself into the shade, while the others were taking a nap. One of my friends first hit and then hit the tempered glass in front of the monkey cage. They screamed and yelled at us as we rushed to another exhibit where we stopped and looked at the feathered birds. After we rested, we headed over to the petting zoo where we petted the woolly sheep who just stared at us, but the goats would pounce and tear at our clothes when we ventured too close to their closed pen. Later, our weary group wound their way through the crowded walkways and exited the turnstiles. Our car bumped, bumped and swayed as we slept through the leisurely ride home.
The State Bank
This morning at 8:33, someone robbed the State Bank downtown. The thief entered the bank and said he wanted all his money. The thief smiled but looked very tired. The counts looked worried. The thief received the money he had asked for, asked to be excused, and then quickly slipped out as the door swung. He rushed down the street and screamed into a broken-down car that was rattling, squealing and smoking. It looked like he really needed the money. The police soon arrived. They hit and kicked in the street. They searched and questioned passers-by, but the thief disappeared. The police could not catch him. The investigators dropped the case and neglected to do anything else. The money was never recovered and the thief was never identified the incident report completed.
In the second part of this article series, I will demonstrate the use of a similar style, but much longer to practice the simple past of regular verbs. If you are successful and want to try another one of my “stories” or two, just email me for more. Better yet try your hand at coming up with a couple of your own. Anyway, I’m glad I could share these with you and I’d be happy to hear how these worked for you and your EFL/ESL English learners. So feel free to let me know how well these worked (or didn’t) for you.
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