Lilia Savova, Department of English, had a chapter on “Teaching Past Simple Versus Past Progressive” accepted for publication in the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Teaching English (Liontas, Ed.).
In this chapter, she situates these two tenses within two discussion frameworks, namely “tense-as-time” and “tense-as-aspect.” She explains that, traditionally, the emphasis on discussing and teaching tenses has been on their relation to time. She further points out that such time-centered explanations may be confusing because of the complexity of the tense-time relationship, especially given the fact that both the past simple and the past progressive tense belong to the same time segment, i.e., the past. She emphasizes that the temporal markers locating actions in the past are not sufficient to differentiate their different uses through the examination of the verb’s external characteristics alone.
She suggests that a better way to differentiate between the uses of these two tenses would be within the “tense-as-aspect” framework, because aspect, which focuses on the verb’s internal characteristics, analyzes the nature of those actions as they happen and as they are perceived.
The chapter also includes a section with practical suggestions for teaching these two tenses in the English classroom.