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Teaching Future Tenses to English Language Learners

written by: KellenKautzman • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 1/17/2012

With a lesson, game and worksheet exercises, non-native speaking English students will learn future tense in no time at all.

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    In these future ESL lessons your students will learn how to use the future tense with the words “will”, “going to”, and the slang version “gonna”.

    The future tense is often accompanied with the word “will”. Tell your students that when they see this word they can be almost positive that the sentence is in the future. The only exception is when it is being used to talk about “will power”, which is the mental strength to persevere and keep going.

    Write, or project, the following examples on the board.

    Future “ I will go to the store.”

    “He will not leave.”

    “We will always love playing soccer.”

    “They will not think a lot about school in the summer.”

    “You will always want to eat pizza.”

    Ask you students what the common theme of these sentences is. Ask them when these sentences are happening. Are they happening in the past, present, or future? If your students are having difficulty understanding, brainstorm as many words in the future that you can and have them write them all down. Examples, tomorrow, next year, next week, three days from now, in a week, later, etc.

    Have your students start the first section of the future ESL lessons worksheet combining the future words with the "will" sentences. When they finish go over their work with them. Feel free to project the worksheet if you have the ESL technology.

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    “Going to”

    Tell your students that there is another way of speaking in the future in English that they have probably heard. It uses the words "going to".

    I’m going to

    Studying you’re going to

    he’s going to

    she’s going to

    we’re going to

    they’re going to

    Refer to the future ESL lessons worksheet and instruct your students to match the "will" phrases with the "going to" phrases by drawing a line from the left to the right. When you finish that activity have students practice replacing “will” with “going to” on their worksheet. The following is the first example.

    “I will go to the store.”

    Students write I’m going to the store.

    Replacing “will” with “going to” is easy if students remember to include the contraction.

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    “Gonna” Pronunciation Practice

    Have your ESL students practice saying the words “going to." Let them know that saying it the “proper way” is just fine. Now introduce the slang version “gonna”. It is important for them to understand that many people do not say “going to," they say “gonna” and it means the same thing. Have them repeat the following sentences,

    “I’m going to go to the store.”

    “I’m gonna go to the store.”

    “He’s going to eat a pizza.”

    “He’s gonna eat a pizza.”

    “We’re going to go soon.”

    “We’re gonna go soon.”

    Ask your ESL students if they have ever heard someone say "gonna" before. Tell them to keep an ear out for it in the future to see if they can find people saying it.

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    Future ESL Wrap Up / Game

    Games are Fun Have your ESL students finish the worksheet. If there is extra time have the students make a circle on the floor to play “if he/she is going to, then I’m going to…”

    The teacher begins, “If you are all going to listen, then I’m going to teach.” The teacher passes the ball to another student. He or she says, “If he’s going to teach, then I am going to listen.” That student passes the ball to another student, who says, “If she is going to listen, then I am going to draw." That student passes the ball, etc. This is a good way for your students to practice the future tense. You can play the same game with “gonna” and “will”.

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