How to Master Simple Past Tenses

Written by teresa dashwood
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How to Master Simple Past Tenses
Ensure mastering of simple past tenses through a variety of methods. (Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Learning simple past tenses involves more than memorisation and rote exercises. Language learners who use multiple approaches to the language task increase their retention and ability to use the simple past tenses through reading, writing, listening and speaking. Master the simple past tenses in meaningful situations.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging


  1. 1

    Total Physical Response (TPR), developed by James Asher, presents a basic way to introduce simple past tenses to novice language learners. Assist language learners as they link physical actions to past tense verbs in the target language. Provide directions, such as "Go to the door." The language learner goes to the door. Then ask, "What did you do?" Help the language learner reply, "I went to the door." Joining physical actions to simple past tenses provides a meaningful way for language learners to master past tenses.

  2. 2

    Reading gives language learners a way to join high-interest stories and articles with past tenses. Ask the language learners to select a short reading that interests them. Review the readings and invite discussion. The language learners then identify past tense verbs by pointing, making a list or underlining the words. Ask the language learners to reread the material and prepare to read selections aloud. Combining the quiet reading activity with the reading aloud activity helps language learners to master past tenses.

  3. 3

    Writing past tense verbs in meaningful prose develops proficiency. Begin with list-making. Ask the language learners to refer to the list of past tense verbs. Give the learners time to study and review the list, so they understand at least 10 of the verbs. Then invite the language learners to write sentences about their life using the 10 verbs in the past tense. Some examples are "I caught the bus and rode to school." "I found my friend at the bookstore after I paid for my books." At regular intervals, such as each week, add more past tense verbs to the practice. Writing aids in mastering simple past tenses.

Tips and warnings

  • Ask language learners about techniques and strategies they use for successful mastering of simple past tenses.

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