How to teach the present perfect simple?

Many teachers find it challenging to teach the present perfect. This is due to a number of reasons.

  1. First, the present perfect is not really a present tense.
  2. It is composed of the auxiliary have and a past participle.
  3. The past participle itself is a real challenge for students, particularly the irregular forms

The following lesson plan provides ideas on how to teach this tense.

1. Start by giving examples of present perfect:

  • Last week, I watched three movies.
  • This week, I have watched only one.

2. Elicit the form of the present perfect simple.

  • Have + Past Participle.

Remind students that the past participle of regular verbs is formed by adding -ed to the base form of the verb

  • play = played
  • visit = visited
  • receive = received

However, the past participle of irregular verbs have special forms and have to be learned by heart:

  • be = been
  • come = come
  • do = done

3. Help students make a distinction between finished and unfinished actions:

  • Last week, I watched three movies. (Ask students: is last week finished?)
  • This week, I have watched only one. (Ask students: is this week finished?)

Then draw a table like this:

Last weekThis week
 Yesterday Today

Ask students to complete the table with time expressions like yesterday, this morning, in 1992, today….

Ask students to give you examples of finished actions and unfinished ones.

  • I visited my uncle twice last week. But, I have visited him only once this week.
  • I wrote three poems last month. But this month I have written only one poem.
  • I called my girlfriend five times yesterday. But today, I have called her six times.

4. Once students grasp the contrast between finished and unfinished actions, you can proceed to present new uses of the present perfect.

A. Have you ever…?

Use personal experience to teach this structure.

  • Have you ever seen an Indian movie?
  • Have you ever played golf?
  • Have you ever met  a world champion?
  • Have you ever written a poem?

B. Actions that happened in the past but whose effect is still in the present.

  • Why don’t want to eat lunch with us? –  Because, I’ve already eaten it.
  • Why don’t you want to read that book? – Because I’ve read it before.
  • Why is he sad? – Because he has lost his purse.

C. Present Perfect with since and for

The best way to teach the present perfect with since and for is to use a time line.

  • 1990 – Nancy moved to New York.
  • 1992 – She was appointed as a teacher in Jesse Jackson high school.
  • 1994 – She married Alan.

Then Students may come up with examples like:

  • Nancy has lived in New York since 1990 / for … years.
  • She has been a teacher since 1992 / for….years.
  • She has been married to Alan since 1994 / for.. years.

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8 Responses

  1. Soo Wright says:

    My Moving Words methodology, using creative movement and dance to teach language, is particularly effective for presenting abstract concepts and difficult tenses like the present perfect. I get students to agree on an area in the room to represent the past, one to represent the present and one to represent the future. For a sentence like ‘I have visited my uncle only once this week’, they physically move from the past ‘zone’ to the present ‘zone’ while saying the sentence, to show an unfinished action that has a connection with the present. In contrast, for ‘I visited my uncle twice last week’, they say this while standing in the past ‘zone’ to embody the sense of a finished action.

  2. malick says:

    I am really impressed by your lesson plan and I am going tu use it in my claSroom

  3. Irene says:

    Thanks ever so much for such a useful lesson plan. I am using it to prepare my grammar class for next week, hope it goes all right!!

  4. zahra says:

    It is very useful, I’m going to use it in my class tomorrow.

  5. Mersedeh says:

    Thanks for your useful lesson plan.

  6. nesrine says:

    thank you so much

  7. khalid says:

    Thank you

  8. AHMAD says:

    gorgeous and i like it….It can be a good opening to the present perfect tense.

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