Verb Tenses

I was trying to convince a blog member about the importance of using the past tenses in all first year classes during stories (once PQA and Circling with Balls and all that stuff is over) as per:
I got this response. It is heart wrenching in a way. Here a professional is being told by someone who doesn’t get how we learn languages to do things a certain way. I really don’t have a comment on it, maybe someones else does:
I must admit that I am a bit weary of the administration.  In our textbook the kids are not supposed to be studying the past tense yet.  What happens if my principal makes a surprise visit?  I just got this new job and I’m nervous about making waves. The past tense is, however, taught at the end of the Expresate textbook, so maybe halfway through the year I can toss it in stories and kind of get away with it.
A big problem I had at my previous school of 3 years was that I was perceived as too radical by colleagues, which led to negativity among the district administration.  Although I know that teaching multiple tenses is better for kids, I feel like I have to play the system for a little while first.
Same problem as always.
[ed. note: actually I do have a comment. I think that the past tense won’t be very easy to teach in the middle of the year in stories if the kids by then have fossilized the present. Once the PQA is done and it’s storytime,we have to hit the ground running with stories in the  past and the readings that we create from them in the present, as per the point I have been trying to make in recent discussion.]



9 thoughts on “Verb Tenses”

  1. Does the administrator know the target language? I know that if I were throwing in even 3 different tenses in my level 1 class my administrator would have no clue.

  2. I am going to ditto Chris. Most administrators don’t speak another language and have no idea what good language teaching looks like. If the kids are in their seats, they are happy. So if it is an issue, have a worksheet ready for when they come in and then tell the kids to sit down, shut up and do their worksheet like everyone else does.
    In the meantime, begin educating your principal–some can be trained (man am I glad this is a secure site!). Include him in the excited emails your send to your colleagues about some cool idea you just learned about teaching. take some of the energy from the blogs and squeeze it into a district email.
    does this make sense?

    1. Probably more of the same here, but I cannot imagine an administrator being concerned about which tenses I use when. If I went to my principal and told him that I was teaching in Latin with past tenses before they came up in the book (which I do–but our Latin book brings them on very early anyway) he’d see that as a wonderful thing. At the district level, I am seen as radical, and it’s not perceived as negative. I am more likely to think that this young teacher has been manipulated by some older, frightened teachers, into “thinking” that administrators really worry about this stuff. Imagine–kids using more than the text book “allows”.

  3. My guess is that it was not the administration that cared about the past tense….it was this person’s colleagues. I’m sure there was a list generated over time about why this “radical” approach was detrimental:
    How can the past be learned when so many present tense regular and irregulars are still not “mastered”?
    Students will refuse to listen the following year if they have already been exposed to the past tense. They will say, “We already learned this.”
    This teacher is not a team player.
    S/he is showing off and simply thinks s/he’s better than we are.
    If s/he is right,then s/he is saying that we are wrong and we are NOT wrong.
    By doing things differently this teacher is trying to convince parents and students that we are bad teachers.
    If all of these textbooks say it, and there are millions of dollars invested in these books, then the books must be right.
    And the list goes on….
    And the list was brought to administration in such a way that administration either a) believed it or b) wanted to be left alone by the list-holders or c) administration was in bed with (in one way or another) one of the list-holders, so administration took it out on this teacher.
    Then again, some administrators were 4%ers….and proud of it.
    We all need to know who we are dealing with in our own particular situation. The more you know about your particular administration, the easier it is to figure out how to proceed.
    When all else fails, remember, it is not our success (or lack thereof) with administrators that matters. It is our students’ success with the language that counts. (and…..many of the most well-respected folks in TPRS are/were not supported nor understood in their own districts)
    with love,

  4. If all of these textbooks say it, and there are millions of dollars invested in these books, then the books must be right.
    I was at a workshop and heard a textbook writer tell the whole group, “Textbook writers don’t believe everything they put in their books. A lot of it is there because someone else wants it or they won’t buy the book, and the goal is to sell books.”

    1. I hear you. I was at a district sponsored meeting where I heard one textbook saleswoman say that her company tried to sell a textbook with fewer vocabulary words, less content etc. but the book wouldn’t sell. It didn’t have enough “stuff”.

  5. Sorry to revive this old thread, but it brought up an interesting question for me:
    Is it ok to start in with the past tense during the circling with balls phase? Why can’t I ask if someone “played basketball” on Saturday? Is it a rigid rule that it should only be started when stories are started?
    Overwhelming the students at the outset with too much vocabulary (forms that look very different in the past) is the one negative that I see.

  6. “We shelter vocabulary but not grammar.” Those famous words by Susan Gross end the discussion. We always use whatever tense is natural (as per your example above) in whatever situation we are in. We never have to follow any rules in this approach because there are no rules; there is only an approach, a philosophy of pleasant interaction with the kids in the target language. Yes, we suggest certain skills to get to that goal, skills like staying in bounds and SLOW and circling, but there are no rules. That’s why it is not a method as much as it is a process of aligning with standards that have been very impressive lately in their newer and newer forms that actually reflect how we learn languages. Some states are behind others, but generally the ACTFL Proficiency guidelines and the 90% Use Position Statement of ACTFL and the new focus on the Three Modes of Communication instead of the outmoded focus on the four skills have guided many states already to rewrite their state foreign language standards to align with ACTFL. So David my advice is to trust your gut on anything you read about how to use comprehensible input in your classroom. I personally swear by the use of the past tense in stories but mostly the present in the PQA that sets up the stories, and the present in the Step 3 readings that come from the stories. It took me years to figure that that is what I want to do because it works best for me to assure that my students have full command of three tenses by the end of level one. But it is not a rule. Got on a ramble there. Sorry about that.

Leave a Comment

  • Search

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe to Our Mailing List

No spam, notifications only about new products, updates.

Related Posts

The Problem with CI

Jeffrey Sachs was asked what the difference between people in Norway and in the U.S. was. He responded that people in Norway are happy and

CI and the Research (cont.)

Admins don’t actually read the research. They don’t have time. If or when they do read it, they do not really grasp it. How could

Research Question

I got a question: “Hi Ben, I am preparing some documents that support CI teaching to show my administrators. I looked through the blog and

We Have the Research

A teacher contacted me awhile back. She had been attacked about using CI from a team leader. I told her to get some research from



Subscribe to be a patron and get additional posts by Ben, along with live-streams, and monthly patron meetings!

Also each month, you will get a special coupon code to save 20% on any product once a month.

  • 20% coupon to anything in the store once a month
  • Access to monthly meetings with Ben
  • Access to exclusive Patreon posts by Ben
  • Access to livestreams by Ben