Present simple for habits and routines is a frequently taught item. Here are some new ways of teaching these familiar items.

Present simple for habits and routines is a frequently taught item. We may sometimes want to find new ways of teaching familiar items like this – not so much to keep the students motivated but to keep ourselves, the teachers, interested. When it's the thirtieth time you've taught a language point you may need a way to avoid those stereotype coursebook characters and their dull daily routines.

Soap opera – character making

How about making some fresh stereotypes?

  1. Lead a short discussion about Soap Operas and elicit some classic character types (e.g. teenage rebel, bad-tempered barmaid, lonely used car salesman etc) and typical storylines.
  2. Give your class time to each choose a Soap Opera character for themselves – it's most fun if they pick someone as different from themselves as possible. NB they can change age, sex, interests, behaviour, politics etc.
  3. They should start by just noting some basic details (you could give them categories to think about); later maybe they could write a paragraph about their daily lives.

Soap opera - live

  1. Work out some key locations in the classroom (e.g. one corner is the 'café', near the teacher's desk is the 'market' etc.) and get the learners to meet up (various group sizes as they wish) in character to 'just chat' and find out who the other people are and talk about what they do.
  2. In this role-play – and in a later whole-class feedback about what they discovered - there is scope for a great deal of natural and amusing use of language to discuss lifestyles, habits, routines, daily life etc.
  3. If the learners like the Soap Opera idea you can use it as a thread through future lessons and let 'stories' unfold and grow.  It'll feel less and less like role-play and more like their alter-ego. Some classes really get into this!

I'm shocked

I often wonder if our overt focus on 'teaching' language items actually gets in the way rather than helping! One interesting way of approaching grammar is to deliberately not teach the item in question – but instead to put the apparent energy into issues around it.

  1. Model some lively two-line exchanges such as "I have fish and chips for supper every day." "No! Not every day?"
  2. Deliberately don't explain the tense or work on it, instead concentrate on the reply to what was said, e.g. getting students to focus on showing amazement or shock, making appropriate facial expressions, getting range in intonation etc.
  3. The surprising thing is that even though you and the students put all your energy into the reply, somehow the tense seeps in deeply as well, possibly more so than when we direct our main attention to it.


  1. Write a number of mystery lifestyle descriptions for some unlikely objects e.g. "I live in the open air. I stand in a line with others. I switch on at night. I make people's lives brighter." (a streetlight).
  2. Read them out and let pairs discuss the answers. Learners can then write some new ones for themselves.