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Grammar Lesson Plan

Present Progressive

Teacher: Jennifer Lawrence
Class: Linguistics 577
Date of Explanation: November 20, 1997
Class Description: This lesson is designed for an adult intermediate grammar class of 12 students from Korea, Japan, Latin America, and China. This community class meets four times a week, for one hour.
Language Skill/Topic: Grammar-present progressive

Students will be able to use the present progressive to describe what they're doing at a specific moment in time.

Materials Needed:

Learning/Teaching Activities:
Business - 5 minutes


Inductive discovery of principle - 10 minutes
Explain that we'll introduce a new verb form called the present progressive tense, made with am/are/is + -ing. Write up the form on the board.

Play a recording of a 2-3 minute segment of commuter news radio. It should contain many instances of the present progressive, such as "It's 6:30 am, and traffic is flowing fine." "Well, we're seeing a sunny day with no sign of clouds." "KJLC-playing the best hits for you."

Have students listen to the recording a few times, trying to hear instances of the present progressive. After, ask them to tell what they heard. Have them guess what the form means.

Explanation - 5-10 minutes (adapted from Swan 496-497)
The commonest use of the present progressive is to talk about actions and situations that are already going on at the moment of speaking.

Hurry up! We are all waiting for you.
Why are you crying? Is something wrong?

The present progressive is often used to talk about developing or changing situations.

The weather is getting better and better.
Britain's railway system is gradually improving.

The present progressive is used to talk about temporary situations. It is not used to talk about permanent situations, or about regular happenings or habits. For these, we generally use the present simple tense. Compare:

My sister is living at home for the moment.
You live in North London, don't you?

Why is that girl standing on the table?
Chetford castle stands on a hill just outside the town.

I am seeing a lot of Monica these days.
She sees her analyst twice a week.

I think the cat is going mad.
I go to the mountains about twice a year.

The present progressive is not the normal tense for narrative (story-telling). In present-tense stories and commentaries, we usually use the present simple to talk about the things that happen.

Practice - 25 minutes
Activity to practice: Remembering Pairs (Ur 246-247).
Students work in small groups of not more than four participants. Each group has a set of cards, which are randomly distributed before them, face down. The first participant turns over any two cards and describes the pictures revealed in brief present progressive sentences, like "He is running. She is eating.

They are fighting." Then the student replaces them face down. This process is repeated, in turn, by the participants, the aim being to remember where the different cards were located and to turn up a matching pair-which then becomes the property of the one who found them. The winner is the one who has the most pairs at the end.

Conclusion/Homework - 5 minutes
As a class, talk briefly about some of the more interesting things that students said they were doing, in the game.

Assign students to find two examples of the present progressive in something they read or hear. Note them down in two sentences and bring them in to the next class.

Contingency Plan:
"The Ideal Day" (Rinvolucri 97-99).

  1. Give every four students a time grid and a die. Explain that the numbers on the grid are times, starting at the bottom lefthand corner with 6.00 am. Ask each student to find a coin to represent him or herself and to place it at the start of the grid.
  2. Ask the first player in each foursome to roll the die and move forward the number of squares shown on the die. He or she pretends that the die moves him through the times of his/her "ideal day", as if he/she's living those times right now. He or she explains his/her actions at this time on an "ideal day." Insist that the student starts with the time, e.g. "It's 7:15. Right now I'm taking a shower." If the action mentioned is very vague like "I am traveling," the other students in the foursome should question the speaker. Then the next student in the foursome rolls the die, etc.
  3. Once most people have reached the time when they have arrived at work, it is best to ask the whole class to move their coins forward to around half an hour before they finish work in the afternoon or evening. The periods of transition seem to be the most interesting ones in this game. An incidental aim of the game is to reach Finish.
  4. As students are working, evaluate them by going around the room and hearing their use of the present progressive. (See attached grid)


Rinvolucri, M. (1981). Grammar Games. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Swan, M. (1980). Practical English Usage. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ur, P. (1988). Grammar Practice Activities: A Practical Guide for Teachers. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Lesson Modifications Based on Peer Review:

My original lesson plan was one to teach the present progressive to express habitual action. I chose that as a subject largely because I found what I thought was a neat activity to practice it. My peers helped me realize that I would have to be very careful teaching the present progressive to express habitual action, because ESL/EFL students often overuse the present progressive for that purpose. In reality, we normally use the present simple tense to express habitual action, and teaching them too much about using the progressive for habitual action would probably just reinforce something they would try too much, anyway. That's why I reworked the whole lesson to be an introduction to the present progressive for temporary action.

Explanation of my Lesson:

I thought it would be good to introduce a new verb test through an inductive lesson. I wanted to have them read a passage and highlight the instances of present progressive, then talk together about what it must mean, from the context. Inductive learning would help them see real-life instances of a "boring" grammatical context. Then I discovered that the present progressive is not that easy to find in print! Since it's used more often in conversation and other immediate interaction between people, I thought it would be better to present it through a taped news radio segment. The immediacy of the news radio genre reinforces the lesson that this is a grammatical form used for temporary action. Although it's more difficult to listen for grammatical forms than to read for them, I tried to compensate for this by playing the passage a few times, and preparing them for what to look for beforehand. It's also a good exercise in practicing listening skills and therefore pronunciation. The "Remembering Pairs" game is basically like the game "Concentration," and can be used to teach many things. I think it's a good way to reinforce images of people doing things, to associate those with the present progressive.

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1997 © Dr. Lynn E. Henrichsen
Department of Linguistics
Brigham Young University
Last Updated: Saturday, November 29, 1997