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One way to introduce the imperfect tense

My preference for introducing new grammar tended to be to let students see the new structure in context. I was not dogmatic about this, but it just seemed to be more stimulating for students to get some good comprehension input whilst at the same time picking up some new grammar. Two birds killed with one stone, more target language input for long term acquisition. You get the idea.

For the imperfect tense I usually used pairs of pictures comparing present with distant past. This was fine and focused students on meaning, sound and listening before moving on to reading, writing and explicit grammar explanation. A worthy enough alternative would be to use a simple text where all four skills could be used at the same time. I wrote this for yesterday and I would be happy to use it with a good Y9 class, or even with Y10-11, depending on aptitude. It's an old school approach and you might criticise it for lacking pizzazz, but it does lead to some creative speaking and writing, is not gimmicky ("fun for fun's sake") and gets the job done.

Imperfect verbs in context - text: souvenirs d'enfance

Quand j’avais 10 and j’allais à l’école primaire dans la petite ville où j’habitais. On était trente élèves dans la classe. Notre maîtresse s’appelait Madame Mauroy. Elle était très gentille avec nous. On faisait de la peinture, elle nous lisait des histoires, on faisait de la musique et on faisait beaucoup de calcul. Je travaillais bien à l’école. A la récré on s’amusait à faire des batailles en se portant sur le dos.

J’habitais une petite maison pas trop loin du centre-ville avec mes parents et ma sœur aînée, Lise. Je me souviens qu’on n’avait pas beaucoup d’argent, mais on faisait des promenades le weekend avec nos parents. Je me souviens du jour où mon père a acheté sa première voiture, une petite Citroën. Il en était ravi.

Comme passe-temps je jouais au foot avec mes copains dans le jardin public. J’adorais regarder les dessins animés à la télé. J’aimais surtout Tom et Jerry. Je faisais du modélisme un peu. Par exemple je faisais des maquettes en plastique d’avions. Et je passais beaucoup de temps à jouer au lego. Je lisais de temps en temps, surtout des bandes dessinées comme Lucky Luke ou Tintin. Je ne lisais pas beaucoup de livres.

De temps en temps nous allions au cinéma pour regarder un film de Disney. Je me souviens que le premier film que j’ai vu, c’était Bambi. J’avais peur à certains moments et c’était une histoire triste. Pour les vacances on faisait du camping au bord de la mer. J’adorais ça.

Je m’entendais bien avec ma sœur. Elle était gentille avec moi la plupart du temps et on se disputait peu. Nous avions un chat tigré qui s’appelait Raoul. Des fois il attrapait des souris ou des oiseaux et il les rentrait dans la maison.


Vrai, faux ou pas mentionné ?  (initial focus on recognition and meaning - can be done orally - whole class probably, maybe in pairs)
1.         Jérôme habitait à la campagne.

2.         Il habitait un appartement.

3.         Il écoutait des histoires en classe.

4.         Il chantait dans une chorale à l’école.

5.         A l’école Jérôme était paresseux.

6.         La mère de Jérôme était institutrice.

7.         Il ne regardait jamais la télé.

8.         Il jouait au lego, mais pas souvent.

9.         Il lisait occasionnellement.

10.       Il allait au cinéma le samedi matin avec ses parents.

11.       Il aimait les vacances à la plage.

12.       Il se disputait souvent avec sa sœur Lise.

Questions (for oral, then written exploitation -I would do both, oral first)

1.         A dix ans est-ce que Jérôme allait au collège ?

2.         Il y avait combien d’élèves dans sa classe ?

3.         Comment s’appelait sa maîtresse ?

4.         Est-ce qu’il était paresseux à l’école ?

5.         Qu’est-ce qu’il faisait à la récré ?

6.         Est-ce qu’il habitait un appartement ?

7.         Est-ce que sa famille était riche ?

8.         Qu’est-ce qu’il faisait le weekend avec ses parents ?

9.         Quelle marque de voiture est-ce que son père a acheté ?

10.       Quel sport est-ce qu’il pratiquait ?

11.       Quel type d’émission est-ce qu’il préférait à la télé ?

12.       Quelle sorte de maquettes est-ce qu’il faisait ?

13.       Est-ce qu’il lisait beaucoup de livres traditionnels ?

14.       Combien de fois est-ce qu’il allait au cinéma ?

15.       Quel était le premier film qu’il a vu ?

16.       C’était un film amusant ?

17.       Où allait-il en vacances ? Avec qui ?

18.       Est-ce qu’il se disputait beaucoup avec sa sœur ?

19.       Quelle sorte d’animal familier avaient-ils à la maison ?

20.       Quels animaux est-ce que Raoul attrapait ?

Some creativity. Again you could do some of these orally befor setting it as a written task

Think of when you were about ten years old. Make up some sentences starting with the following verbs.

1.         J’habitais                     5.         Je mangeais                  9.         Je faisais

2.         Je regardais                 6.         Je buvais                      10.       J’aimais

3.         Je lisais                        7.         Je jouais                       11.       J’adorais

4.         Je m’entendais             8.         J’allais                          12.       Je détestais

Only then would I do the explicit grammar bit, largely to make sure everyone was on track

Here is a complete verb in the imperfect tense (l’imparfait).

                                    Je regardais                            Nous regardions
                                    Tu regardais                           Vous regardiez
                                    Il regardait                              Ils regardaient
                                    Elle regardait                          Elles regardaient
                                    On regardait

               They are all pronounced the same except for the nous and vous forms.

How would you explain to someone how this verb is formed and what it means?
Then how about a gap fill to recap, with a focus on form and meaning? This tests short term memory. Students must not look at the original text of course.

J’h________une petite maison pas trop loin du centre-ville avec mes parents et ma sœur aînée,

Lise. Je me souviens qu’on n’a____ pas beaucoup d’argent, mais on f_____ des promenades le

weekend avec nos parents. Je me souviens du jour où mon père a acheté sa première voiture,

une petite Citroën. Il en é_____ très content.

Comme passe-temps je j_____ au foot avec mes copains dans le jardin public. J’a_______

regarder les dessins animés à la télé. J’a____ surtout Tom et Jerry. Je f_____ du modélisme un

peu. Par exemple je f______ des maquettes en plastique d’avions. Et je p______ beaucoup de

temps à jouer au lego. Je l_____ de temps en temps, surtout des bandes dessinées comme

Lucky Luke ou Tintin. Je ne l_____ pas beaucoup de livres.

  It is then a short step to a piece of recorded speaking or writing.


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