Keep it Simple, It’s for You to Share with Them


Hey all.

I’ve a number of posts in “draft”, meaning I’ve prepared the titles for the posts, knowing what I need to write, and when I’ve got a bit of time, I fill in the text, then publish them. Up until now, most of the posts I’ve been publishing have been stuff that you, as ESL teachers, probably already should know. The question is, then, why am I telling you all stuff you should already know? Isn’t that stuff the students should hear?

Yes. It’s the stuff the students should hear.

What I’m offering you ESL teachers is not new material, rather, a simplified approach to presenting that material. The handbook, Verbs in the Universe of Discourse, for example, is an attempt to show teachers how to show thier students a few basic concepts that all verbs share:

  • all verbs must be preceded by a pronoun (or a proper noun)
  • all verbs have a root form upon which other forms are built
  • all verbs build the present participle by adding the suffix [-ing] to the root form
  • all verbs build the infinitive by adding the prefix “to” to the root form
  • all verbs are compound verbs (auxiliary + correct verb form)
  • some verbs create the past and past participle by adding the suffix -ed to the root form (and are called by some “regular” verbs because of this)
  • other verbs create the past and past participle by changing the spelling or pronunciation of the word (and are called by some “irregular” verbs because of this)

Repeat it: all verbs

Look at that list! There are seven points made and the only difference that can be found in verbs is how the past and past participle can be made (“irregular” or “regular”). That means the similarities among verbs outweigh the differences that can be highlighted.

So much ESL teaching is based upon identifying the odd-man-out. In the discussion of verbs, I am trying to emphasize that once these basic similarities are grasped, then verb use in English becomes a question of practice of the similarities rather than identification of the few, oh-so-few differences (“regular” verbs far outnumber “irregular” verbs in English).

Keep it simple

This concept, keep it simple, can (and will) be applied to any structural explanation you give to your students. Just think about question, negative and short answer production. In each and every case,

the affirmative sentence is made:

  • pronoun + auxiliary + verb

the negative is made:

  • pronoun + auxiliary + not + verb

and the question is made:

  • auxiliary + pronoun + verb

there are no exceptions. Instead of teaching these concepts as some complicated construct, they should be illustrated from the outset as something common in all English structure. Once dominated with one auxiliary the same structure can be applied to all auxiliaries that exist.

Let your students know this. This is the simplicity of English structure.
And just wait until you get the pronunciation posts, where I assert, again, that there are no exceptions! ha.



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