Progressive verb tenses express a continuous or ongoing action. Essentially, the progressive aspect expresses incomplete or ongoing actions at a specific time (past, present, or future). Just as with all grammar topics, teaching progressive verb tenses should be balanced between direct instruction and authentic language practice.
If you are teaching younger students or English language learners, you may want to read this blog post on simple verb tenses first. If your students are beyond the progressive verb tenses, check out this post on perfect verb tenses.
The following timelines are helpful visual cues you can use with your students when teaching progressive verb tenses. These visuals help students conceptualize and understand how time relates to the progressive aspect.
Past Progressive Verb Tense
This verb tense expresses an ongoing or continuous action that occurred in the past. This aspect uses the words “was” and “were” before the -ing verb.
- I was talking to Benjamin.
- Benjamin was talking to me.
- The students were talking to Benjamin.
Present Progressive Verb Tense
The present aspect of this verb tense expresses an ongoing or continuous action that is occurring right now. Use the words “am,” “is,” or “are” before the -ing verb.
- I am talking to Benjamin.
- Benjamin is talking to me.
- The students are talking to Benjamin.
Future Progressive Verb Tense
Lastly, future progressive verb tense expresses an ongoing or continuous action that will occur in the future. This aspect is formed by using the words “will be” before the -ing verb.
- I will be talking to Benjamin.
- Benjamin will be talking to me.
- The students will be talking to Benjamin.
Teaching Progressive Verb Tenses
Here are some teaching ideas and resources that you can use with your students.
1. Anchor Chart
You can use the timelines and examples from above to create an anchor chart with your students. The timelines are excellent visuals to reinforce each verb tense. Students can then reference the anchor chart as needed.
After completing the anchor chart, guide students through completing this free mini-book. It comes in two versions: One version is completely filled out, and the second version contains blank spaces where students can take their own notes. Just enter your email address in the form below, and it will immediately be sent to you. If you don’t see it in your inbox, check your spam/promotions folder. To ensure delivery, avoid using a school email address.
3. Progressive Verb Tenses Teaching Unit
For more in-depth instruction, check out this unit on progressive verb tenses. It includes everything you need to teach, reinforce, and assess this grammar topic.
4. Khan Academy
Khan Academy’s unit on progressive verb tenses is another great resource to use. It also introduces simple verb tenses, so it’s especially useful for limited English speakers.