Education :: The Importance of Tense

Alli stood in the doorway. She holds out her hands and dropped the towel. The towel fell to the floor and clumps up. It had only been on the floor for a moment before she leans down and picked it up.

Does your head hurt yet?

Mine did just writing that.

This can be how our students write. Sometimes they’ll change tense sentence by sentence depending on what’s happening in the story. Sometimes, as above, they’ll change tense right in the middle of a sentence – sometimes more than once!

Sadly, this is a lesson that can only be taught through practice.

When you have your students writing a narrative essay, it’s good to do several edits. One of the edits you do should be strictly tense. It may even be the last edit you do. That’s really up to you.

You can use one essay to teach them many of the lessons I talk about throughout my blog posts. Each edit should be retyped by the student so it’s a fresh sheet each time you do it. You could also start them with something very short and build onto it with each lesson taught.

Anyway, I digress.

When it comes to editing for tense: if it isn’t clear, you may need to meet with them to figure out which tense they are trying to achieve. Once that’s fully established, go through the essay with a highlighter and highlight the words that are in the wrong tense.

Of course, as the school year continues, your students will begin picking up on these tense changes. When you edit their later works, you can edit more than one thing in the same essay in the same round. It’s just a matter of repetition.

What’s the worst sentence for tense you’ve ever come across? Share it in the comments!

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