Verb images

This lesson asks students to think about tense and aspect, what they mean, and how else we can communicate those meanings.


  • Identify verb tense and aspect. 
  • Explain the meaning of verb tense and aspect. 
  • Use multimodal literacy skills to present information from words as pictures. 

Lesson Plan

The teacher explains that today, we will be describing some pictures using language, and then drawing some pictures to describe language.

Slide 1 shows a sentence. First ask about the verb: what is the tense, and the aspect? It's present progressive. Ask the class to draw a picture to convey what the sentence conveys. This should be quite straightforward. Ask the students to compare their drawings with their neighbours' drawings. [The girls are rehearsing a song.]

Slide 2 shows another sentence. Ask once again about the verb: what is the tense and the aspect? It's past progressive. Once again, ask the class to draw a picture to convey what the sentence conveys. How do they convey the past time and the progressive aspect? What does the past progressive verb mean, and how do they represent that? [Several boys were playing football.] They can experiment to see what they come up with, but they might try drawing a clock or a calendar to convey time, or they might draw multiple frames as a comic, showing time passing.

Slide 3 gets even trickier. First ask about the verb: what is the tense and the aspect? It's present perfect. What does that mean, and how might they represent it? [Sally has studied French for three years.]

Slide 4 presents another present perfect verb, with a slightly different time frame. [John has been studying French for one hour.]

Slide 5 presents a past perfect verb. [The students had drawn pictures all day by the time the teacher stopped them.] This is the final illustration for the students.

Grammar is very useful for conveying time and temporal relationships. Illustrations can be much more difficult in this regard, but in performing this exercise, students are pushed to understand the meanings conveyed by different tenses and aspects, and to 'paraphrase' or 'translate' those meanings into a different mode. 


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