Teaching the past tense is not easy. Students have to learn a whole new set of vocabulary. It’s tough. Indeed, often, students have a mental barrier against learning and using it. Students learn and start to master the present simple tense and then suddenly they hit the past tense which presents them with a whole set of new vocabulary. Many elementary students stop right there and never really progress. As a teacher, I want a variety of activities to help me get students through this difficult learning stage. A variety of listening and speaking activities really helps.
This is a fun Christmas role play activity in the past tense. Students can listen to the audio or watch the video and match the vocabulary to the pictures. Then they can answer the questions or create their own “Bad Christmas” role play.
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In this past tense simple activity students listen to the audio and complete the role play story about a bad vacation using the vocabulary and the pictures. Alternatively, the pictures may be used as an example and students can be asked to create a role play using their own ideas.
Bad Vacation past tense activity (PDF)
NB: I just added video to this exercise. This is an ESL listening/vocabulary exercise to introduce students to the past tense. Students match phrases to pictures as the teacher dictates past tense phrases using sentences to give context. This exercise is a great icebreaker and introduction to the past tense. It also works really well as an online listening assignment. Just post page 1 and 2 (page 2 if students are being presented the vocabulary for the first time) of the PDF, along with the audio file to Google Classroom. Students listen to the audio, write the vocabulary on the pictures digitally and then return the assignment.
Elementary past tense vocabulary (PDF)
Writing conversations with language cues is one good way of getting into the past tense. Students have to think about a past tense context and and create a role play for this context. The language cues give them some assistance in guiding and developing their ideas. Also, there are 2 example conversations that can be used as listening exercises.
Create a past tense conversation (PDF)
This is another slightly more advanced ESL exercise to help students expand their knowledge of past tense verbs.
A Good Day past tense exercise (PDF)
This is a second exercise to help students understand, practice or review the past tense endings.
Past tense endings pronunciations 2 (PDF)
(Past tense “ed” endings YouTube video)
This exercise is a compliment to the exercise above. Of course, if you want to talk about things using the past tense, you need to be able to discuss and describe both good and bad situations. And often, in the classroom, bad situations are more interesting and fun.
A Bad Day past tense exercise (PDF)
Past Continuous and “Used to” Exercises
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5 Useful Passive Voice Practice worksheets
6 Present Perfect Language and Speaking Worksheets
4 Excellent Exercises for Aspects of Nouns
3 Great Exercises for the 2nd Conditional (PDF)
This is an ESL or English language role play listening /speaking lesson for practicing conversational English. It’s a bit of an old classic and allows for imagination and creativity while practicing the past tenses and vocabulary for describing people.
This is an ESL exercise to help students learn to use the past tense. Students match the verbs to the pictures and then write short sentences for each picture.
Past tense verbs and sentences 1 (PDF)
This is another fairly elementary ESL exercise to help students learn to use the past tense. This time students match try to write short sentences with past tense time phrases for each picture.
Making past tense sentences with time phrases (PDF)
This is an exercise to help students understand, practice or review the past tense endings and the different kinds of pronunciation for the “ed” endings of verbs with different spellings. Students sort the verbs into the appropriate column. Students then write some sentences which they can be asked to say out loud.
Past tense endings pronunciations (PDF)
Ghosts is a brilliant high energy game perfect for practicing the past tense. With a capable elementary or pre-intermediate class it can become something quite special.
Ghosts past tense grammar game (PDF)
11 Replies to “Incredibly useful past tense teaching activities”
really useful, I like the style and format. I will try them out with the students.
Thanks for making this available.It helps me a lot, I don´t have that much time or opportunity to prepare new material. Your style is inspiring and today has given me some new motivation, much appreciated
Thanks for the comments. Yes, motivation is a big problem. Whenever I have found new ideas, they have given me motivation too. Especially for some grammar topics, I am always happy to find new and creative ideas for teaching.
Thank you very much, really useful activities.
Love your worksheets, I teach english in an asian country so sometimes cursive fonts can confuse my students. I would love if you used a standard font every time. I know it is a stylistic choice but just a suggestion. Thank you for your hard work!
Wow…that’s interesting. I teach Thai and Chinese students. I have’t had a problem but I’ll definitely think about this.
Thanks a lot !!
Excellent material 🙂
very nice exercises! thanksss a lot 😉
special thanks to you put a good material for us, and I hope you share more information with us we will wait for you
Thanks for all the comments. I’m adding more stuff.