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Linda Dunsmore

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7 Activities for Teaching the Simple Past for the ESL Classroom

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

The simple past is one of the most important tenses in the English language. As it describes past actions, it's quite an easy tense to teach using a variety of fun and interactive activities. Here are 7 activities for teaching the simple past for the ESL classroom.

For more activities check out: 10 Exciting Activities for the Past Simple

1. Preparations

For this activity, the students think of significant accomplishments in their lives. After sharing with the class what they have accomplished, the students should describe what they did in order to achieve this goal, for example they graduated college, studied English, took classes, etc. It’s important that the students use the simple past to talk about these actions.

Also read: 7 Activities for Teaching the Present Progressive for the ESL Classroom

2. Good Days and Bad Days

Brainstorm a list of things that can make a day good and things that make a day bad. Pair up your students and have them ask each other questions and give answers about a day in the past (yesterday, last week, last year, etc.). For example: Did you spill coffee yesterday? - No, I didn’t spill my coffee yesterday. This is a great way to practice questions and negative use in the simple past tense.

3. Charades Series

Similarly to charades, the students describe the steps they took during the charade. For example, one student performs the action of brushing his teeth after getting up and eating breakfast. Once the charade is over, another student describes each step: First, he got up, then he ate breakfast and then he brushed his teeth.

4. Dear Diary

To practice the written form of the simple past, have your students write about their day in a diary. Have them write about what they did yesterday, last week, last year, etc. Pay attention to the transitions of time (next, then, after that, finally, etc.).

5. Get Out and About

To freshen up your grammar lesson, get your students out of the classroom and outside for a short walk if you can. Have your students take notes during the walk about things they observe. Once you’re back in the classroom, the students share what they saw and experienced using the simple past tense.

Also read: 7 Activities for Teaching the Present Perfect for the ESL Classroom

6. Accurate Endings

This activity aims at practicing -ed endings because they are not pronounced the same for every regular verb. First, brainstorm a list of regular verbs with your students and write them onto the board. Next, have the students sort the words into two categories: words where -ed sounds like [ed] and words where it sounds like [t]. Next, challenge your students to figure out the rule that determines which pronunciation to use.

7. Double Duty Review

This activity tests how much your students remember from yesterday’s class. Ask the students to tell you what happened during class yesterday using the simple past. You can also change this activity up if the majority of your class travelled overseas to study English. Ask them what they did before they came to your school.

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