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.
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.
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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.
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.
This is another slightly more advanced ESL exercise to help students expand their knowledge of past tense verbs.
This is a second exercise to help students understand, practice or review the past tense endings.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.