Explaining Present Perfect can be tough. Teaching 9-15 years old students I usually use this presentation:
It’s my absolutely favourite tense – probably because we don’t have it in Polish (only present, past and future, easy peasy, hrhrhr). It takes some time for poor students to get it, so I usually tell them the things they have to learn by heart:
- Present Perfect is a present tense (EFL books comparing it to Past Simple being great mystery of teaching?)
- This tense is a parasite
It appears that once you change the phrase Present Perfect is about past actions with present consequences into Present Perfect tells us about present consequences of past actions it gets easier to remember (importance of emphasis, I guess). To make this fishy tense easier to get I use the following ways:
The Pirates of the Carribean
Do you remember the Black Pearl ship? If so, imagine YOU are Black Pearl and suddenly a wild Kraken attacks! Its tentacles crash you in the deadly embrace and death is imminent. Now – are you more concerned with those tentacles or maybe you ponder on where did this kraken come from? The pressing issue of tentacles seems more important, right? And this is Present Perfect itself: you are not worried where did an action happened (ie. where did the kraken come from) but what are its consequences (or, in this case, tentacles).
Zombie attack! (or Monster Under the Bed version)
You’re home alone and suddenly you hear knocking on the door. Half asleep, convinced that it’s your family or friends, you open the door… but there’s a real live (or rather undead) zombie which doesn’t waste time but attacks you grabbing your limb and chewing it enthusiastically (scrumptious, don’t know why children love this part). I don’t think you worry about the beginning of zombie apocalypse, but rather focus on your limb (or lack of it if you think really slowly). And that is Present Perfect again, thinking about the consequences of your rather unwise action of opening the door without asking ‘who’s there’. Nice story + a good lesson for children to check before they open the door and be prepared for zombie apocalypse.
Sometimes I change zombie for a Monster Under the Bed, story is the same, it depends on students’ choice (which story do you want?).
I must admit that students’ general comprehension of this tense has improved since I started using those stories. The next important issue is that Present Perfect is a parasite, always relying on another tense, never to exist alone. When are the consequences of Present Perfect visible – at present: I’ve stupidly opened the door and now a zombie eats my limb/ Kraken has attacked me and now I’m crashed in its deadly embrace. Even if you don’t say the consequences explicitly, they are always there.
Now, these are my ideas of presenting this fantastic tense (I really love it and feel its lack in my native language). What are yours? Maybe you use some games or websites?