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What are time expressions?

Time expressions are used to describe how frequently we do certain activities. They are often used in response to the question “How often do you …?”

Here are some commonly used time expressions:

  • never: “I never cook dinner”
  • once, twice, (3) times, etc.: “I play tennis once a week”
  • every day: “I do homework every day
  • ~ a week: I play piano 3 times a week.
  • ~ a month: I go to the gym twice a month.
  • ~ a year: I ski once a year.

Time expressions take the following forms:

  • never: cannot be used with a time frequency such as “a day / a week / a year”. It goes after the subject and before the verb:
    E.g. I (subject) never drive (verb) a car.
  • once, twice, (3) times, every day: must be used with a time frequency such as “a day / a week / a year / every day”. It goes after the verb. If there is a direct object or indirect object, it goes after that:
    E.g. #1 She (subject) sings (verb) every day.
    E.g. #2 He (subject) drinks (verb) tea (direct object) 3 times a day.
    E.g. #3 I (subject) write (verb) a letter (direct object) to my cousin (indirect object) twice a year.
Notes:

This lesson will help your students to talk about their lives in terms of frequency.  The lesson will cover time related vocab and action verbs, so make sure your students have already completed the dates (ordinal numbers), days of the week, months of the year and basic actions vocab.

Lesson Procedure:

Warm Up and Maintenance:

See our "Warm Up & Wrap Up" page.

 

New Learning and Practice:

1. Review vocab: "Calendar fun"
Your students will be talking about how often they do things using the words "a week", "a month" and "a year". They will have already covered these words in previous lessons so this is a fun review activity.

You'll need a few calendars - depending on how many you can get your hands on, give out one calendar to each pair or group.

To elicit the key vocab, start off by writing on the board:

Today ...

  • The day is _____________________. (e.g. Wednesday)
  • The date is _______________________. (e.g. 12th)
  • This month is ____________________. (e.g. March)
  • It is the _______________ week of the month. (e.g. 2nd)
  • The year is _________________. (e.g. 2015).

Put students in pairs/groups to talk about their answers (using their calendars).
After a couple of minutes, hold up a calendar and ask "What's this?". Elicit "Calendar".
Then say "Let's use the calendar to find the answers". Then, holding up the calendar show / elicit the answers and complete the blanks on the board.

Review vocab: "Calendar fun"

Next, write the following questions on the board and have your students work in their groups with their calendars to find the answers:

  • How many months are there in a year?
  • How many days are there in August?
  • Which month comes before May?
  • Which day is November 17th?
  • Which months have 30 days?
  • Which months have 31 days?
  • How many days are there in February?
  • Which month comes after October?
  • Which day and date is Christmas?
  • Which day and date is your birthday?
  • Which day and date is the first day of the year?
  • Which day and date is it today?

2. Play "Week / Month / Dates Buzz"
This is a fun game to practice saying the days of the week, months of the year and dates (ordinal numbers) in sequence.

Get everybody standing in a circle. You need one ball. Start by passing the ball around the circle with students counting numbers as pass the ball (1 .. 2 .. 3 .. 4 .. etc.).

Next, introduce the game "Buzz". When students pass the ball, every 5th number the person holding the ball must say "Buzz" instead of the number, for example:

1 ... 2 ... 3 ... 4 ... BUZZ ... 6 ... 7 ... 8 ... 9 ... BUZZ ... 11 .. 12 ... 13 ... 14 ... BUZZ ... 16 ... etc.

Start the game - the ball is passed from student to student around the circle with each person counting the numbers as they pass the ball ... and saying "Buzz" every 5th number. If anyone makes a mistake the game has to start from 1 again. Try and get the pace going really fast.

Play "Week / Month / Dates Buzz"

After a few rounds change to days of the week instead of numbers, again, saying the word "Buzz" every 5th day:

Monday ... Tuesday ... Wednesday ... Thursday ... BUZZ ... Saturday ... Sunday ... Monday ... Tuesday ... BUZZ ... Thursday ... etc.

After a few fun rounds change to months of the year and finally dates (ordinal numbers):

January ... February ... March ... April ... BUZZ ... June ... July ... August ... September ... BUZZ ... November ... December ... January ... February ... BUZZ ... April ... etc.

1st ... 2nd ... 3rd ... 4th ... BUZZ ... 6th ... 7th ... 8th ... 9th ... BUZZ ... 11th ... etc.

3. Introduce the structure "How often do you?"
Before class, find a picture of a famous character or person (cut out from a magazine or print out from the Internet - I use Bart Simpson).

  1. Hold up the picture and ask some students if they like this character. Then stick the character onto the left-side of the board and write above it "How often do you ...?" (see board layout image below).
  2. Next, take some flashcards of everyday actions (make sure that your students are already familiar with many of them), such as:

    ride a bike, swim, ski, play piano, play (a sport), do ballet , get a haircut, read a book, eat (steak), take a bath, play a board game, go bowling, go to the movie theatre, play TV (video) games
  3. Hold up the first flashcard (e.g. ride a bike) and elicit the vocab. Then say "Does (Bart Simpson) ride a bike?". Elicit "Yes, he does".
  4. Introduce the structure "How often do you?"On the right-side of the board write:

    - 0 = never
    - 1 = once
    - 2 = twice
    - 3 = three time
    - 4 = four times
    - 5 = five times
    - 6 = six times
    - 7 days = every day

    - a week
    - a month
    - a year
  5. Now write next to the character's image, "How often do you ride a bike, Bart?". Turn to the class and by pointing at the numbers on the right-side of the board try to elicit an answer (e.g. every day). For the first couple of questions, you may need to give the answer until your students start to pick up the idea. Say and write the answers (below the picture of the character) ... if you can, try to say the answers in the character's voice (e.g. "I ride a bike every day" in a Bart Simpson voice).
  6. Go through all of the flashcards electing the answers and writing the questions and answers on the board - so you should have something like this:

Board layout:

Board layout

Students can make up any answers they don't know (e.g. how often Bart has his hair cut) - any logical answer is fine.

As you elect the answers, be sure to point out the word order:

  • numbers (e.g. once a week, 6 times a month, every day, etc.) go at the end of the sentence (e.g. I swim twice a week, I ride a bike every day).
  • 'never' goes directly after the subject (I never do ballet).

4. Practice the structure "How often do you?"
We'll do this in three steps:

STEP 1: Controlled speaking practice
Put students in pairs - Student A asks the questions on the board and Student B is the character on the board. Make sure that all Student Bs speak in the character's voice!

A reads the questions to B and B answers using the sentences on the board. For example:

STEP 1: Controlled speaking practiceStudent A: How often do you ride a bike, Bart?
Student B: I ride a bike every day.

After all of the questions have been asked and answered students swap roles and practice again.

During this activity the teacher should monitor carefully and help with mistakes and pronunciation. At the end, ask a few of pairs to stand up and demonstrate a question and answer to the class - give lots of praise and a round of applause!

STEP 2: Roll play practiceSTEP 2: Roll play practice
Before class prepare more character pictures (cartoon characters, superheroes, film stars, TV stars, pop stars, etc.). Make sure you have enough pictures for each pair. Give our one picture per pair. Pairs then practice the questions on the board and giving their own ideas for answers.

After all of the questions have been asked and answered students swap roles and practice again. When finished, you can have pairs exchange pictures and do again with another character.

Again, the teacher should monitor carefully and help with mistakes and pronunciation. At the end, ask a few of pairs to stand up and demonstrate a question and answer to the class - give lots of praise and a round of applause!

STEP 3:  Interview practiceSTEP 3: Interview practice
Finally, your students are going to give their own answers to the questions. In pairs, Student A asks the questions on the board to Student B, and student B will answer truthfully about themselves.

After all of the questions have been asked and answered students swap roles and practice again.

As before, the teacher should monitor carefully and help with mistakes and pronunciation. At the end, ask a few of pairs to stand up and demonstrate a question and answer to the class - give lots of praise and a round of applause!

Do the "How often ...? (2) Week / Month / Year" worksheet5. Do the "How often ...? (2) Week / Month / Year" worksheet
Give out the worksheets and circulate as your students write their answers..

6. Play "Three Truths and a Lie"
On the board write four sentences about yourself using the time frequency structures but make sure only 3 are true and one is a lie. E.g.

  • I cook dinner five times a week.
  • I go to the gym three times a month.
  • I play golf 5 times a year.
  • I never ride a bike.

Tell your students one sentence is not true about yourself and ask everyone to guess which is the lie.

Then give everyone a slip of paper and have them write 4 sentences about themselves, again 3 truths and 1 lie. As they are writing walk around and give help with spelling, etc. Students don't need to use the same actions from the previous activity - they can write anything they like.

When everyone has finished, get everyone to stand up and find a partner. Tell everyone that they have just 1 minute to read their sentences and guess which is their partner's lie. Use a timer and shout "Go!". After 1 minutes get everyone has to stop and find a new partner, and continue like this for a good few rounds.

Play "Three Truths and a Lie"

At the end, get everyone to sit down and then ask for some students to tell you some truths about other students.

Wrap Up:

1. Assign Homework: "How often ...? (4) Week / Month / Year" worksheet.
2. Wrap up the lesson with some ideas from our "Warm Up & Wrap Up" page.

Print Outs / Worksheets:

Flashcards:

  • ride a bike

    ride a bike

    print
  • swim

    swim

    print
  • ski

    ski

    print
  • play piano

    play piano

    print
  • tennis 1

    tennis 1

    print
  • bowling

    bowling

    print
  • do ballet

    do ballet

    print
  • get a hair cut

    get a hair cut

    print
  • read

    read

    print
  • eat

    eat

    print
  • take a bath

    take a bath

    print
  • board game

    board game

    print
  • movie theatre

    movie theatre

    print
  • play games

    play games

    print

Warning Found a mistake?
Please let us know

Notes:
  1. To view and print a flashcard or worksheet click on the thumbnail image.
  2. For detailed printing instructions, click here.
  3. print= British English version - click the flag to open and print. Click the thumbnail image to see the US English version.
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