10 Activities for the Past Simple
Grammar lessons can be perceived as boring for some students, so it is important 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 ten 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 places 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.
Diary: 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 math teacher was absent so we had a free period."
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."
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." If the students are all relatively young, then they could all image they are 100!
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 took (...)" 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.
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 ay 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."
Past Simple Battleships: A good activity for practicing past simple yes/no questions. Give students a 6x6 grid. Down the left side of the grid, put the start of past simple questions with different pronouns, e.g. "Did I...," "Did she..." Along the top will be six different endings to the questions, e.g. "play football?", "eat a sandwich?", etc. The students then have to place four ships (two 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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