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7 Activities for Teaching the Past Progressive for the ESL Classroom

7 Activities for Teaching the Past Progressive for the ESL Classroom | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Teaching grammar patterns often involves a lot of classtime and the more activities you have up your sleeve as a teacher the better. The following 7 activities for teaching the past progressive for the ESL classroom will help your students pick up the tense in no time!

1. Memory Challenge

Pull up an image with a lot of actions going on, for example, people engaging in different activities at a park or another public place. You can either hand out printed images or show it to your students on an overhead projector or TV. After having your students analyze the image, turn off the TV or collect the prints and start asking what the people in the photo were doing.

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2. People Watching

This is a great activity you can perform outside of the classroom with the whole class or for each student as homework. The first part of the activity consists of heading to a public area to watch people going about their business. Have your students bring a piece of paper and a pen and take notes of what people are doing. Later, the students report back what they saw people doing in the past progressive.

3. The Luck of The Draw

This game is great for practicing the structure of the past progressive. Write down several time words on small cards or slips of paper, for example “yesterday at 5 PM,” “the day before yesterday at 3 o’clock in the afternoon” or “last night at 9 o’clock.” Then, place them in a box or a bag. In class, your students will draw a card and make a sentence about what they were doing at that specific time using the past progressive.

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4. What You Didn’t Do

Put your students into pairs or small groups and have them make lists of what they did yesterday. Then, have the students ask for actions that were missing from the list, like “Why didn’t you do your homework?”. The other student responds using the past progressive, such as “I was playing with my friends.”

5. So Much in Common

The goal of this activity is to find common things the students did at the same time. Pair up your students in the classroom and have them ask about what they did over the weekend, for example, “What did you do on Saturday at 7 PM?” The student answers something like “I was playing soccer with my brother.” The team who finds 2 common actions the fastest wins.

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6. Strange Explanations

This activity is very popular among young students and for it to work, you should encourage them to think as creatively as possible. A student asks a question starting with “When I saw you…”, such as “When I saw you-you were sticking bubblegum to your shoe” The other student now needs to give a plausible, yet funny explanation why he did so, for example, “I was filling in a hole in my shoe with bubblegum.” This usually results in a lot of laughter in class.

7. My Alibi

Set up groups of 4-5 students in your classroom and have them work together for a crime investigation role play. One student plays the investigator whose job it is to find out who stole a cookie from a cookie jar (or something more serious for older students). The investigator goes around asking the suspects in their group what they were doing at different times when the theft occurred and the suspects answer using the past progressive. It works best if you assign “actions” to the students beforehand and also name a secret “thief”.

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