January 19

Repeating and reviewing the past simple

I’ve recently been teaching the past simple (both regular and irregular verbs in positive statements) to my class of nine-year-olds.  There’s been lots of gesturing behind me to show that we’re thinking about something which happened in the past and I’ve been trying to think of different ways to review, repeat and recycle the material.  This week we did quite a fun activity which allowed them to focus on both the meaning of the verbs and also the different pronunciation in the present and past – especially useful with a lot of the regular verbs and some irregulars, such as read (/red/).

To start with, I asked them to give me some of the verbs we’d been studying in their present and past forms.  Then, when we had about fifteen on the board, I asked them to give me a sentence for each, using the past form.

We did some drilling of the sentences to check pronunciation and then I put them into groups.  One student had to say a sentence and the others had to say whether it was in the past or present.  I monitored and corrected, especially the problem -ed endings!

October 30

10 Questions

Here’s a fun activity which I’ve been doing with groups of eleven-year-olds this week.  It’s a fun way to practise question forms and includes some speaking practice too.


Elicit question words from the students and write them on the board.  Then divide the class into teams and give each team a piece of paper – I found that teams of three work well, although you may prefer pairs in order to get everyone working or fours if you have a larger class.  Give them ten minutes to write ten questions – personal information questions work best, though I didn’t specify when I did the activity.


Collect in their pieces of paper and explain the next stage.  Each team has a mini-whiteboard and pen.  You write a question on the board and the team has to decide if it’s grammatically correct or not. If they think it’s correct, put a tick; if they think it’s incorrect, they have to write the corrected version.  I use, “How old is you?” as an example.  As you do each question, keep the correct version on the board, awarding points each time a team is right.


When you have a number of questions (15 or so), collect in the mini-whiteboards and set up the final stage.  This is a “speed-dating” style activity in which all the students pair up and ask each other questions for a minute.  You then shout, “Change!” and they have to find another partner.


The activity is student-produced and some of my students were quite inventive, coming up with questions like, “Are you a banana?” which made the speaking stage very amusing.

April 10

Running picture dictations

Here’s a quick idea for an activity to practise the present continuous which will appeal to the artists in the group.

Stick twelve present continuous sentences around the room and divide the class into pairs.  Get each pair to draw a 4×3 table and then do a running dictation BUT one student goes and reads the sentence, comes back and dictates to their partner who then draws a picture of the sentence.

When students have completed the board, you can do feedback by asking them to make a sentence abou the picture – perhaps giving points for the correct grammatical structure as well as points for how closely it resembles the original sentence.

Here are some ideas for sentences…

  1. A fat mouse is looking at some cheese.

  2. Two old men are sitting in the park.

  3. Three children are watching TV in the living room.

  4. A happy rabbit is jumping in the garden.

  5. A tall, thin man is drinking some orange juice.

  6. A boy is reading a book in bed.

  7. Four people are riding horses in the countryside.

  8. Two boys are playing computer games in their bedroom.

  9. An ugly monster is eating three small children.

  10. The teacher is standing next to the blackboard.

  11. Six children are playing football on the beach.

  12. A beautiful woman is talking on her mobile phone.

November 30

Disappearing Sentence (II)

This is an add-on from Steve O’s blogpost about an activity for his classes preparing for the FCE Part 2.  I do a similar activity with younger learners to get them used to using different structures which can sometimes cause problems.

Write some sentences on the board and then ask students to read them out.  Once they’ve read them out, rub off a word from each and ask students to read the sentences again, filling in the gaps.  You can continue doing this and taking away more words, each time replacing the word with a dash so they know how many words are missing.

These are some of the sentences I usually use:

I’m 8 years old.

I’ve got two sisters.

I like playing football.

I can swim.

My eyes are blue.

My hair is brown.


You can also do this activity to introduce structures before asking students to do a piece of writing.  I put the following sentences on the board last week during our topic of countries around the world:

China is a very big country.

It’s hot in summer.

It snows in the mountains.

There are lots of forests and rivers.

Rice is from China.

Pandas are from China

The Chinese flag is red and yellow.

July 6

2 True, 1 False

When I was writing the post the other day about Getting To Know You activities, I was surprised to see I hadn’t already posted about this activity.  Or at least I could find it anywhere using the handy Search box on the side.  So here goes…

I’ve lived in Spain for ten years.

I can’t drive.

I’ve got two sisters.

With the Elementary group I wrote these three sentences on the board and explained that one of them was false.  They chatted to their partner about which it could be, then I asked them what they thought.  Having put their names on the board next to their choice, I asked them to ask me a question related to the sentence so they could find out which was false.

They then did the same activity in pairs: each person wrote three sentences (2 Truw, 1 False) and their partner had to guess which one was false.  They can ask follow-up questions as well and then feedback to the class about their partner.

This activity also works well when practising specific grammar points: students could write three sentences in the present perfect or three sentences using I wish…