Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Part 7 – “To Go” (Future, Present & Past Tenses)

In this PART 7 post you’ll find a list of ideas to help you develop lesson plans for teaching…:

  • …the verb “TO GO” (in the future, present & past tenses).
  • …the question word: “Where?”
  • …the days of the week.

Don’t feel limited to what is written below.  Let these simple ideas launch you into developing more creative, thoughtful, and effective ideas.

The only thing you really need to remember is:

“Our main approach/principle for teaching grammar while staying in the target language is…

…give students MEANINGFUL EXPERIENCES in which the target grammar structures are used often enough to be noticed and acquired.”


Instructional Activities/Strategies

1- Days Of The Week – Introduction or Review

First, show a calendar that has the days of the week written in the target language.  (If you have a way to project it, it’s fun to use Google Calendar and change the settings so that the days of the week show up in the language that you teach.)  Showing the days of the week on a calendar, and pointing to each one as you say them, is a very simple way of making them comprehensible.  (Side note: For the purposes of this lesson, students don’t need to have the days of the week memorized, nor do the students need to prove that they know the direct translations of the days of the week.  It’s enough that they know that you are talking about days.)

Show the students an oversized calendar and have them repeat the days of the week in the target language.

Show the students an oversized calendar and have them repeat the days of the week in the target language.

Next, write/post the days of the week (from left to right) on the board.  Write them as spread out as possible with enough space below to record some data.

2- “TO GO” – Future Tense

Pick a day of the week.  Under that particular day, write (and at the same time, say) a few sentences like the ones listed, in bold, below.  Each sentence should have the name of a student in it.  At first pick students who tend to be more confident than the others.  Each sentence should also have the name of a place that students would really like to go.  (i.e. McDonald’s, Starbucks, Six Flags…etc.  The purpose of picking locations like these is to peak the students’ interest.  It’s important to peak students’ interest because, depending on their proficiency level, they may have no clue what you are saying/writing.  Remember, when students have no clue what you’re saying, they will quickly lose interest.  Avoid losing the interest of your students by using names of their classmates and by saying the names of places that everyone recognizes and would like to go to.)

“On Thursday, Laura will go to Starbucks.”

“On Thursday, Emily will go to Starbucks.”

“On Thursday, Aidan will go to McDonalds.”

On Thursday, Trista will go to Six Flags.”

After all the sentences are written on the board, step back and say (in the target language), “Wow.  Okay.  Great.  Laura.  Okay.  Laura.  On Thursday, Laura will go to Starbucks.  And Emily.  Yes.  Emily.  Laura and Emily.  On Thursday, Laura and Emily will go to Starbucks.  And Aidan.  On Thursday Aidan will go to McDonalds.  And on Thurdsay, Trista will go to Six Flags.  Great.  Wow.  Great.  Okay.”

Finally, you may want to ask the class to read the sentences on the board out loud in unison.  (Side note: At this point the teacher does not expect the students to know what they are saying.  However the students are still willing to say it and stay engaged because everyone is thinking, “Okay, I’m not sure what’s going on…but it has something to do with my friends Laura, Emily, Aidan and Trista…and it has something to do with these fun places.  What’s gonna happen?  Let me see and find out.”  The names of students (and of exciting places) are keeping the students engaged, even though they aren’t sure what’s being said in the target language.  Meanwhile, something very exciting is happening.  While student interest is peaked, Teacher is introducing the target grammar structures.)

(Side note #2: The fun thing about moments like these is that Teacher gets to introduce and repeat the target grammar structure without the students really even noticing.  The students aren’t actively paying attention to the future tense form of the verb “TO GO”.  They aren’t actively noticing that you taught them a 3rd person plural conjugation for the future tense of “TO GO”.  They are waiting (some of them excitedly waiting) to find out what these classmates are going to do…and what in the world Starbucks, McDonalds and Six Flags have to do with anything).  While they are thinking about something exciting and curious, the teacher is intentionally teaching but the students are learning passively.  The students start learning without trying to learn.  It’s an amazing experience both for the instructor and learner.  Learning L2 by accident!  When my students have moments like these, sometimes I like telling them, “L2 class is like T.V…all you have to do is watch.”)

3- “TO GO” – Present Tense

Teacher pulls out teacher-made signs/printouts that have the words “Starbucks,” “McDonalds” and “Six Flags” in big attractive letters.  Teacher takes the Starbucks sign and hangs it up at one end of the room.  Teacher says, “Class: Starbucks.  This is Starbucks.  Right here is Starbucks. (Teacher motions/points to a defined imaginary place next to the Starbucks sign that is the part of the classroom called Starbucks.)

Teacher repeats sentences like these while she hangs up the other signs in different parts of the room.

Now every student knows where Starbucks, McDonalds and Six Flags are located in the classroom.

Teacher walks back to the middle of the room, shrugs her shoulders and asks the class, “Where is Starbucks?”  When students start pointing to the Starbucks sign, Teacher uses the Two-Hand Method to help them answer the question, “Where is Starbucks?” with the phrase, “There it is.”

Teacher continues asking about the location of the other signs, “Where is McDonalds/Six Flags?” and students answer appropriately by pointing to the sign and saying, “There it is.”

Teacher goes to the sentences on the board and reads all four while she looks at them.

Teacher looks away from the sentences and looks directly at Laura and says, “Laura, on Thursday, where do you go?  On Thursday do you go to Starbucks?  On Thursday do you go to McDonalds?  OR on Thurdsay do you go to Six Flags?”  When Laura answers with the word Starbucks (because it’s so obvious) Teacher writes the answer in complete sentence form and uses the Two-Hand Method to help Laura say, “On Thursday I go to Starbucks.”  Teacher praises Laura for her complete sentence answer saying, “Great.  Good Laura.  Good job Laura.”  Teacher motions for Laura to stand and says, “Laura, stand up.”  Teacher motions for Laura to walk to the spot on the classroom floor beneath the “Starbucks” sign and says, “Go to Starbucks.”  Teacher gives Laura a reward/incentive for answering/participating/going-first.  (Side note: At this point, Laura may feel very “put on the spot”.  She may have felt a bit embarrassed to be going first and to be instructed to stand up and walk in front of all her peers.  (Again, that’s why Teacher should pick confident students to go first for activities like these.)  Teacher should have a high-desire reward to give to Laura for going first.  An even better reward situation would be to pick two high-quality rewards and say, “Good Laura.  Good job.  Do you want ___(reward #1) or ____ (reward #2)?”  Have class give Laura a round of applause.  If any of Laura’s peers acts obnoxious or does something to make her feel awkward…there must be a significant consequence…or else no other student will want to participate because they will feel afraid of their peers making fun of them.)

Teacher continues by looking away from Laura and directly at Emily and repeats the line of questioning/script that she used with Laura (in the paragraph above).

Teacher continues this pattern with Aidan and then Trista.

Before moving on to step #4 Teacher may choose to do all of steps 2 (future tense) and 3 (present tense) over again with new student volunteers.  The purpose of the repetition is to make sure that the whole class has a good understanding of what’s happening before introducing the new target grammar structures from step 4 (below).

4- “TO GO” – Past Tense

Once steps 2 and 3 are done, Teacher should make sure all student volunteers are seated.  Teacher should write the following questions/answers on the board and have a discussion with students about what happened (past tense) in steps 2 and 3:

“On Thursday, who went to Starbucks?”

“On Thursday, _____ went to Starbucks.”

“On Thursday, who went to McDonalds?”


Getting Everyone Involved

Once the students feel moderately familiar with steps 2, 3 and 4 it will be easier to get everyone involved.  Try some of the following ideas:

  • Add more “locations” around the room.  (i.e. “the park,” “the movie theater,” “the mall,” “Taco Bell,” “Local Ice Cream Store,” etc.)
  • Do a whole week in fast-motion.  Make a list of the days of the week on the board.  Write down a long list of sentences in the target language (future tense) delineating which students will go to which places on each of the particular days.  Teacher can point to any particular day of the week on the calendar and see if each of the students know where to go based on the sentences written on the board.  At any point Teacher can stop and ask questions in the future, present and past tenses.  When practicing the target grammar structures it would be good to have the questions and answers written/posted somewhere conspicuous.
  • Ask students to write down or say (in the TL) where their peers will go on different days of the week.  After a few of these directions have been written down or said, their classmates will have to walk around to the correct places in the room.
  • Recycle this activity throughout the year.  Call the activity something catchy in the target language (i.e. “Let’s Go!” or “Where Will We Go Today?”).  Give the students chances to review/practice these grammar structures at random times throughout the year.

Assessment Ideas

  • After students are familiar with steps 2-4, start recording whether they walk to the appropriate spot in the room when the cue/direction is given.  Use a rubric to assign a grade based on whether they walked to the correct spot needing help or not, or after walking to incorrect spot(s) or not, etc.
  • Write a “model email to a friend” on the board in front of all the students.  The email should contain information about where you go on certain days of the week.  Ask students to answer comprehension questions based on the information included in the “model email to a friend.”
  • Ask students to write text messages to each other or to you.  You can do this on real devices or, if that is not possible, make a “text-message-conversation-template” to print out and have students fill in the conversation bubbles in pairs.  Students should use the target grammar structures to ask and answer questions about their plans for the week and where they will go or where they would like to go.  Students can also ask their friends questions like, “Where did you go last Saturday?”

REFLECT: What did the students experience during this activity?

  • Students got to get up and walk around the room.
  • Students repeatedly heard, read and said different forms of the verb for “TO GO.”
  • Students passively learned the word, “Where?”
  • Students used the interpersonal mode to help Teacher compile relevant information.
  • Students wrote in the target language.
  • Unit assessments were meaningful and generally non-threatening to reluctant students.
  • Digital assessment option allows students to practice collaborating and to learn 21st century skills.
  • The teacher stayed in the target language.
  • The students realized that they could not only survive in an L2-immersion environment but that it can be fun.

Have you tried out any of these grammar teaching suggestions from Tuesday’s Tips for Staying in the Target Language?  How did it go?  Leave comments below or add to the conversation on twitter by using #langchat (for general language teaching comments) and/or #TL90plus (for staying in the target language” comments).

See what others are saying about Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language.

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Part 1 – Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: “To Have” and “To Want” Verbs

 Part 2 – Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Introducing “To (NOT) Want”

Part 3 –  Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Teaching How Change in Quantity Affects The L2 Sentence

Part 4 –  Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Teaching Future Tense of “To Eat”

Part 5 –  Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Teaching Past Tense of “To Eat”

Part 6 – Teaching “To Listen” & “To Like/Not Like” – Various Tenses

Part 7 – Teaching “TO GO” – Various Tenses

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