William Shakespeare / During Reading / /

Exploring Tenses

Investigating the range of tenses used and the impact this has on the reader.

Lesson length: 1 session

Lesson from William Shakespeare series

Required reading: 27-28, whole book

Text potential

  • Narrative features: Author’s intention
  • Language features: Tense: perfect tense
  • Language features: Tense: present and past tense

Strategies used

  • Language Study


The authors switch tense frequently, which could confuse the young reader and make it difficult to keep up when the action is taking place. The book provides a meaningful context for investigating the different tenses and the author’s intentions. The perfect tense is often used when writing historical accounts and allows you to write about a past action in present time.


  • Copies of Shakespeare, at least one per pair. 


Begin by sharing the following two sentences from pages 27 and 28: 

The theatre had been built by Richard Burbage’s father in 1576 on land leased from a rich property owner, Giles Allen. 

The playhouse where the Lord Chamberlain’s men perform is called the Theatre and it stands on land leased from Giles Allen, a rich London property owner.  

Ask pairs:

  • Do you notice any differences between these two sentences?
  • Which tense has been used? (Depending on the children’s knowledge of tense, they may note the use of the past perfect in the first sentence, had been built and the use of the present tense in the second sentence.)
  • Why do you think the authors chose to use different tenses? 

Distribute copies of the book and ask the children to turn to page 27-28 to see the sentences in context. Ask:

  • Which sections are written in the past tense and which in the present? 
  • Which sections do you prefer and why? 

The children may prefer the present tense sections. Encourage them to explain their reasoning. Ask:

  • Which sentences give a sense of being there and of events happening right now? 
  • Which sentences give a sense of events happening a long time ago? 

Organise the class into pairs. They will investigate the tenses used in the book and capture examples using a table like the one below: 

Past  Present  Present Perfect   Past Perfect 
I saw it.  I see it.   I have seen it.   I had seen it.  


Final reflection

Ask pairs to choose a section of text from the book and transform it from one tense to another. One example could be taken from page 31:

The Globe is packed to bursting point. Crowds push and jostle, cheer and shout as they watch Will’s latest play. 

The Globe was packed to bursting point. Crowds pushed and jostled, cheered and shouted as they watched Will’s latest play. 

Invite comments about the impact the change of tense has on the reader.

Key vocabulary

tense, present, past, perfect


Sam Keeley

Formerly a teacher and local authority advisory teacher, Sam now works with Just Imagine as an English consultant and manager of the year 6 Reading Gladiators programme.

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