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10 Exciting Activities for the Past Simple

10 Exciting Activities for the Past Simple | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Grammar lessons can often be quite boring for students so it is important for us as TEFL teachers to have fun activities that encourage the students to use the target language creatively and foster high student talking time. Below is a list of 10 activities that can be used for lessons on the past simple.

Matching pairs

The teacher creates a set of cards with present simple verbs and a set with the past simple form of the same verbs. The sets are mixed together and placed face down on the desk. Students take turns to turn over two cards. If the two cards match i.e. both forms of the same verb, the student has to make a sentence with the past simple form before they can keep the cards. If they cannot make a correct sentence, the cards are turned over and it is the next player’s turn. The person with the most cards at the end of the game is the winner.


Students write a diary entry about the previous day. They can then interview each other about their day. E.g. “What was the best part of your day?” “Our maths teacher was absent so we had a free period”.

Also read: Great Ideas for Teaching Writing Skills in the ESL Classroom | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Telling Stories

Students are provided with a set of cards. Each card has either a word or a picture on it. The students use the vocabulary and pictures on the cards to create a story using the past simple and past continuous.

Find Someone Who …

Students interview each other to find out who did certain things on holiday, when they were young etc. After the interviews the students present their findings to the class. E.g. “Maria went to the beach on her holiday”.

Also read: Great Ideas for Teaching Listening Skills in the ESL Classroom

When I was young

This is a good activity for adult students. Students think about how things were different in the past and talk about things they did/didn’t do or had/didn’t have when they were young. E.g. “When I was young we didn’t have mobile phones”, “When I was young we walked to school every day”.

Memory games

Listing games where the students have to remember everything previous students have said and then add their own item to the list are a great way to practice the past simple. Start the activity by writing a starting phrase on the board e.g. “I went on holiday and I (…)” or “I went to the shop and I bought (…)”. The phrase then gets repeated around the room with students adding more to the list each time. This is best played with small classes.

Also read: 7 Awesome Ideas for Business English Classes

Irregular verb bingo?

Students are given bingo cards with irregular past simple verbs. The teacher calls out the base form of a verb and the students have to say the past simple form before marking it on their card. As soon as a student has marked all the verbs on their card they shout “BINGO!”

What did you do (…)?

Students talk about the things they did at a certain period of time e.g. this morning, at the weekend, on your holiday etc. “What did you do on your holiday?” “I went camping with my friends”.

Also read: Important Ideas to Consider when Teaching Vocabulary

Past simple battleships

A good activity for practising past simple yes/no questions. Give students a 6 x 6 grid. Down the left side of the grid the start of past simple questions with different pronouns e.g. Did I …, Did she … along the top will be 6 different endings to the questions e.g. play football?, eat a sandwich for lunch? etc. The students then have to place 4 ships (2 squares in length) on their grid either horizontally or vertically. Students then ask each other the questions to try and find the battleships. E.g. “Did she eat a sandwich for lunch?” if it is a hit, the answer is “Yes, she did”. If it is a miss, the answer should be “No, she didn’t”.

Good day/Bad day

As a group the class brainstorms a list of things that can make a day good or bad. Then, in pairs students ask each other about good and bad days they have had in the past to find what it was that made the day good or bad. E.g. “Did you miss the bus?” “No, my car broke down and I had to walk to work. Then I fell in a ditch and lost one of my shoes”.

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