What is the Present Progressive “-ing”

The present progressive “-ing” grammatical marker is the one we tack on the end of a verb to say that the action is currently happening.  For example, we might say “he is running” or “she is flying”.  When a child does not use the “-ing” ending on present progressive verbs, it can be hard for the listener to determine the exact meaning of the sentence and can make the child’s speech sound telegraphic or choppy.

Step One: Using Present Progressive “-ing” in Single Words

First we need to teach your child to include the “-ing” on simple verbs.  You will need a set of pictures of children or adults performing different actions.  You can make your own by finding pictures online and  printing them out or you can download mine for free:

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Show your child one picture and say “what is she doing?”  Your child should already know the name of the action that the person is doing.  If not, go back and teach those first.  Your child will probably say the action word without using the “-ing” on the end.  For example, if you say “what is she doing?”, your child may say “sit”.  Repeat the word back to your child but add the “- ing” to the end.  You can say “Sitting.  She is sitting.”  Then, have your child repeat “sitting” back to you.  Do the same thing for each picture.  Model the correct “-ing” form of the verb for each one.  As you continue to do this, your child should begin to include the “-ing” on some of them by herself.  Once she can label the cards using an “-ing” ending, start asking her the same question about other pictures or real people.  If you see someone at the park, ask your child “what is she doing?” and help her respond with the correct “-ing” on the end.  The more places you can do this with your child, the quicker she will learn to use it and generalize it to other settings.

Step Two: Using Present Progressive “-ing” in Sentences

Now that your child knows how to use the “-ing”, let’s bump it up to saying it in sentences.  Get out the action pictures you used from step one again but this time prompt your child with “tell me about this picture”.  The response we are looking for now is a full sentence about what the person in the picture is doing.  The first several times you do this, you will need to tell him the answer and let him repeat it back to you.  He will be used to saying just the single word and it will take some practice to get the whole sentence out.  If you know the name of the character or person in the picture, you can say her name when you describe what she’s doing, such as “Dora is jumping”.  If not, you can say “he” or “she”.  If your child is having trouble with “he” and “she”, now would be a great time to work on those as well.  Just make sure you don’t lose sight of whether your child is using the “- ing” on the verb.  After having your child repeat the answer back to you several times, try asking him one and see if he will give you the whole sentence on his own.  If he just tells you the name of the action again, you can prompt him by saying “use all of your words” and then get him started by saying “he…” and let him finish.  Eventually, he should be able to create these sentences all on his own.

Step Three: Using Present Progressive “-ing” in Conversation

Your child is moving right along!  Time to start working on using that “-ing” in conversational speech.  Start listening to your child’s conversational speech and see if she’s using that great “-ing” yet.  If she is already using it just from practicing those sentences, then you’re good to go!  Chances are though, she’ll need a little more help to get there.  Start correcting those “-ing” verbs when you hear her use them incorrectly in conversational speech.  Start by just correcting about 10% of the errors you hear.  This will ease her into being corrected without overwhelming her.  Then, slowly increase the percentage of time that you correct her.  As you increase the frequency of your corrections, she should also begin doing more on her own.  By the time you’re correcting 80-90% of the errors you hear, she shouldn’t be making many errors anymore so you’re still only correcting her every once in a while. Keep doing this until your child is able to use the present progressive “-ing” in conversational speech about 80% of the time.  After that, you can just monitor to make sure she doesn’t start forgetting again.  If she does, get out some of these activities to practice as a refresher. Modification: If your child is having trouble with this, go back and practice using the “-ing” in pictures again every once in a while but still keep correcting her in conversational speech.  This may give her the extra boost she needs to remember to do it more often.  Use a variety of books and other media to give her plenty of different type of practice on this skill.

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