Focus: Using a dictogloss to teach would for past habits
Level: Upper Intermediate
To practice would in its past habitual tense using a spoken text.
Step 1. Teacher sets the theme by introducing the topic i.e. of summer holidays. Tell the students about how I used to spend my summer holidays when I was a child. Tell students that you want them to listen and, as soon as I have finished, write down any words, phrases or sentences that you can remember. Then tell them the following:
‘When I was a child we used to go camping every summer. We’d choose a different place each year, and we’d drive around until we found a beach we liked. Then we’d pitch our tent, as near as possible to the beach. We’d usually spend most of the time on the beach or exploring the country round about. We never went to the same beach twice. ‘
Step 2. Students individually write down as much as they can recall, whether it be individual words or groups of words. The teacher then tells the class, working in pairs or groups of 3, to compare with each other what they have noted down and to try and reconstruct the text.
Step 3. The students write their reconstructed versions of the text and then one student writes up the completed text on one half of the whiteboard, incorporating the suggestions of everyone. Teacher does not intervene, unless to answer relatively minor questions about vocabulary and spelling.
Step 4. The teacher then writes the correct text next to the students effort on the whiteboard and asks them to identify any differences between the two texts. Usually they are quick to notice differences in word order and the substitution of used to for usually. They are slower to notice the four contracted forms of would (we’d choose, we’d drive etc). Teacher should challenge students to explain what these represent – most students will hazard a guess that they are examples of past perfect, or the 2nd conditional. At that point teacher gently rejects these explanations and briefly explains the use of would to express past habits. **
Step 5 Students write their own texts, of a similar length and style about their own childhood holidays, which they then exchange and discuss.
**We sometimes use would (rather like used to) when talking about habitual past behaviour:
- Every weekday my father would come home from work at 6pm and watch TV.
- Every summer we’d go to the seaside.
- Sometimes she’d phone me in the middle of the night.
- We would always argue. We could never agree.
Lesson taken from: How to teach grammar (Scott Thornbury, Pearson)