Past Simple Activities

A work in progress. I will be using this page to collect together tried and tested activities for practising the Past Simple.

Was & Were

Kim’s Game

I often use the memory game Kim’s game as an introduction to the past tense. We do the activity which requires the use of there is and there are and then later in the class, when everything has been packed away, I ask them to again try to recall all the items they had seen. This time eliciting and using there was and there were.

Regular and Irregular Forms

Letter dictation warm-up

Dictate a question, such as What did you do at the weekend?, letter by letter, i.e. whatdidyoudoattheweekend? Repeat it if neccessary until most students have parsed the question.

Have students discuss the question with their neighbours and then ask (some of) them to share the details with the class.

A normal day and yesterday

Divide the board into two. Write Usually at the top of one section and Yesterday on the top of the second.

In the usually section, write some typical daily activities. Then in the yesterday section write a similar statement but eliciting the past tense form.

Usually

I get up at 7 am
I have a shower at 7.15 am
For breakfast, I eat toast and drink tea
I go to work by car
I arrive at work at 8.45 am
In the evening I watch TV for one hour

Yesterday

I got up at 9 am
I had a shower at 9.30 am
For breakfast, I ate cornflakes and drank coffee
I went to work by car
I arrived at work at 8.45 am
In the evening I watched a movie

Now ask students to tell their partners about their previous day’s activities.

Tic Tac Toe

Draw a tic tac toe grid and write the infinitive of an irregular verb in each square. Teams now try to win the game by making sentences which must use the correct past form of the verb in play. See the Tic Tac Toe post for more detailed information.

Past Tense Crosswords

On our Crosswords Page, you will find printable crosswords for a variety of grammar structures including one for past simple irregular verbs. There’s also instructions and tips on how to quickly produce your own puzzles.

Past Tense Stories

Use the handy set of 50 Verb Cards to practise making past tense stories.

Optional first step – Give small groups of students a set of the verb cards and ask them to write the past tense form of each verb on the back of the card. Monitor the groups during this time and if a card has the incorrect form of the verb on the back, put a line through it and tell them to try again.

When all the decks are complete get the groups to place the deck face up on the deck. They should now take it in turns to make a story by adding sentences using the verb which is facing up. If the student is not sure of the past tense, they can turn over the card to check. Each card is removed as it is being used.

You might want to set up the story by giving an initial prompt. For example I went to America last week or yesterday was my birthday, etc.

Backwards day

This is good for a quick, fun review of the past simple. Tell students what you did on the previous day, but order the events backwards. For example, I went to sleep, I read my book, I went to bed, I cleaned my teeth, I drank some cocoa, etc. Put students in pairs and challenge them to tell their partners about their backwards day.

Past Simple Board Game

This board game for which you will need a dice and counters, is also good for practising past simple time expressions such as last week, three days ago, when I was on holiday in France, etc.

For more board games see the full board game post.

Four in a Row

This is a Connect 4 style game where two players and a referee attempt to connect four boxes in a row by correctly identifying past simple forms of irregular verbs. You can find further instructions and a copy of the game board as well as boards for other grammar structures in the Four in a Row post.


Past Tense Questions

What’s the Question?

Think of a recent activity you did and the questions you would ask to find out about. Write this information on the board. For example:

I went to the cinema

Terminator 5

International Cinema

Not really. I didn’t like it.

€10

7pm on Saturday

Now for each piece of information, elicit an accurate question, i.e. What did you do?,What did you see?, Where did you go / see it?, Was it good? How much did it cost? When did you go?

Get the students to think about their own recent activities and do the same activity in pairs.

Find Someone Who

I love mingling activities like these. Even the most reluctant classes eventually get into the swing of it and it’s a great icebreaker too.

Give each student a copy of the Past Simple – Find Someone Who worksheet. Go through each question and elicit what form the past tense question should take. Then they should get up and mingle and complete their sheets. Encourage them to have little conversations if they discover anything interesting.

For more worksheets and tips on how to do this exercise, see the complete Find Someone Who post.

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