When I was beginning to learn TPRS I remember Susan Gross saying, “ShelterSpanish Image with Multiple Tenses Example the vocabulary but not the grammar.” Why? Because that’s how we actually use language. When adults speak to children they use less advanced words but they do not shelter the grammar. They do not use only what we language teachers think of as simple grammar. They use any tense or mood that is suitable, but they unconsciously bring down the level of the vocabulary.

Here is an example of why we need to teach multiple tenses. It is not a message for a child, but it is a demonstrates simple vocabulary with many different verb forms. This beautiful thought was shared by a friend in Chile.  Much of the vocabulary is high frequency, but the verb tenses and moods are all over the place.

Here is the break down of the tenses in the message:

Preterit, 8

Infinitive, 1

Conditional, 1

Past perfect, 1

Present subjunctive, 1

Present indicative, 1

With the traditional syllabus, the order was always:

Present and Infinitive, Level 1

Preterit and Imperfect, Level 2

Present Subjunctive, Future and Conditional, Level 3

Perfect Tenses, Past Subjunctive and others, Level 4

With traditional teaching, I would not have shared a thought like this until halfway through level 4. It would be accessible to my students now if they know most of the vocabulary.

I still find myself sheltering grammar too much, but I’m working on it.

Here is the translation of the thought above:

“I knew a person that was worth the trouble. Did we fight? Yes… There was jealousy, I got mad, I cried. But I also laughed and without a doubt I would choose him again. Because he made my life happy like nobody had done it. And although today we aren’t anything, I give thanks…”