Present Continuous Activities for Describing Current Activities and Temporary Situations

These present continuous activities focus on its use in talking about current activities taking place or situations which are temporary in nature. Activities which focus on its use for describing future arrangements can be found on the future forms page.

Teaching Online

You can find online present continuous exercises and activities at our online-focused site

What are you Wearing?

The subject of clothes is an ideal way to introduce and practise using the present continuous in a relatively natural way. Have students describe what they themselves are wearing (I’m wearing blue jeans) and then in pairs have them describe to their partners what some of the other students are wearing. (he/she is wearing ...)

I usually do this activity in conjunction with a clothes vocabulary exercise.

Finally, you can play a simple guessing game. In pairs, students pick out a classmate and their partner must discover who they are thinking of by asking questions.

Is he wearing brown shoes?

Is he wearing a blue t-shirt?

What’s Jill Doing?

This is a present continuous picture activity. Put students into pairs and give each pair a copy of the picture sheet and key. Student A has the pictures and student B the key.

Student A should now ask What is … doing? for each of the names on the right side of the sheet. Student B has to find the information and give it to student A who writes the name of the person next to the activity. After all the questions have been asked, students should have deduced that the remaining character must be Jill.

Present Progressive Mimes

I generally avoid doing miming games with adult learners. However, I have found that this miming activity with undramatic ‘universal’ actions, goes down well.

Start off by performing a couple of mimes yourself. For example, juggling, playing chess, eating spaghetti. Elicit the present continuous question form and write it on the board.

Are you washing your car?

No, I’m not / Yes, I am

Put students into groups of three to five and give each group a set of mime cards placed face down on the table. Group members take it in turns to turn over the top card and mime the action given. The other students try to guess what the action is by asking present continuous questions.

Describing Videos

One established way to practise the present continuous is to have students watch a scene from a video and describe what is happening to their partners who have their back to the screen. See the describing videos page for more information and example videos.

Describe the (Imaginary) Picture

In this picture-describing activity, students talk about picture using useful vocabulary such as, there is, there are and the present continuous tense. It’s good for practising asking questions and stretching your students’ creativity.

To save you searching for suitable pictures, there is an online version of this app on our sister site

Your students will need to be confident pre-intermediates and above to tackle this activity.

Gather together some reasonably large pictures of people engaged in various interesting activities. Place each picture in an envelope and put them in a pile on a desk at the front of the class.

In this pile, you should also include some envelopes containing ‘fake’ pictures. These are blank pieces of paper, each one with a descriptive phrase written on it. For example, a policeman eating an ice cream, a woman jogging with five dogs, a young couple walking on the beach.

Students take it in turns to sit at the front desk. They take and open a random envelope and describe the contents of the picture to the class. Invite the other students to ask for more details. Their goal is to try and form in their own minds a picture as close to the original as possible.

After a few minutes ask whether the students believe the picture described is real, or if the describer was creating an imaginary picture.

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