Past simple – past progressive


Past tense practice for beginners

Past Pairs: A card-game for beginners. A communicative drill exercise to practice questions in the past.

Find someone who

Grayfriar’s Bobby: using a story to introduce the past tense.


Irregular Verbs

When learning irregular verbs it is really important to practice them aloud — it’s the right SOUND that the learners need to remember.

These irregular verbs RAPS are a fun way to practice the irregular verb forms. First we watch some of the verbs raps online (see below). Then my learners choose a number of irregular verbs from lists and produce their own raps in small groups. We post them on Moodle so all the other kids can see them and vote for the best ones. By watching all the raps they get more practice and exposure to the correct forms.

We start by watching these:



Then the kids produce their own raps.



Asking questions in the past

Domino Race: after the holidays

Asking questions in the past is quite tricky for most kids. Rules won’t help here. The kids need to hear the correct forms many times in order to form patterns in their brains.

The game “domino race” does this beautifully. Cut the cards (column 1+2  and columns 3+4 must stay together). Distribute the cards (one per student — two for volunteers if you have more cards than students). Give the kids some time to read their card and make sure they understand the sentences and can pronounce them.

Set a stopwatch timer on your phone or online. At your cue the first student reads out a QUESTION. The student with the matching answer reads the answer, and then reads out the question on their card. The students try to do this as quickly as possible.

After the first round, mark the time they needed to complete the game on the board. Play the game again at the beginning of the next lesson and encourage the kids to get faster and beat their record. Do this 3-4 times at the beginning of your lessons.

You can use this game for all kinds of vocab and grammar. It’s a perfect communicative drill.


Past simple // Past Progressive

Background or Action?

The following activities will help learners to understand the concept of BACKGROUND / CIRCUMSTANCES  as compared to the concept of past EVENTS.

1. Awareness raising activity:   A Horror Story 

    Another awareness raising activity: Past events and settings

2. Finding a rule:

Students work out their rules and design their own grammar-rule pages. For each notion they find some typical examples and draw a logo that will remind them of this notion. Click on images to see them in full size.



3. Practicing the idea: Proceduralizing

Spooky story flip-flaps




4. Further practice and applying the concepts in a story

After these grammar activities the learners write their own  spooky stories with a strong focus on describing the spooky atmosphere.

For details of this project go to the page “Writing spooky stories” or click on the image below.

5. Testing grammar

Rather than using a traditional gap-filling task in order to test the learners’ understanding of the new grammar, the learners were asked to write a spooky story based on a picture or video prompt. Such stories show clearly whether a student has mastered the concepts and can apply them in communicative situations.

Link to the test task.

Have a look at one of the best “test”-stories. The student has corrected her little errors and published her story on bookr. Click on the picture to open the book.

Watch a few newer examples from NMS.

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