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Activities For Revising Or Practicing Tenses

In my experience, as long as you plan well, it’s fairly easy to present tenses but much harder to find good communicative practice. You can present present perfect without talking, you can teach past continuous without your left shoe (and don’t get me wrong, students will enjoy this!) but you don’t need a drawn-out lesson with guided discovery every single time. Students need to practice and they also need to see and hear tenses in use and have their attention drawn to verbs from time to time.

For an advanced class, I once found a “politically correct fairy tale” which they thought was just hilarious. This one was from an advanced level ESL resource book, but there are some good examples of politically correct fairy tales at Amazon.com.

The story I found was divided into 10 paragraphs which were to be cut up, and then the students had to read them and put them in the correct order. After we’d checked answers and make sure everyone “got” the most important funny parts, we started a reading race I had prepared. I wrote a worksheet directing them to find different examples of (in this case) all sorts of grammar points, such as:


  • an example of a/an used with a job (Slavic language speakers need to be reminded to use articles)
  • present perfect for an activity that is finished but has a present result
  • find an example of past perfect
  • present prefect for an activity that started in the past and continues now
  • a non-defining relative clause

You get the picture. It wasn’t rocket science and it wasn’t even all that difficult, but it got them to think about some of the rules for tenses and other structures without being on the spot to regurgitate the rules themselves. They most likely looked for present perfect form (have+past participle), and then inferred from the context whether that activity was finished with a present result or had started in the past and continued now.

If you’re looking for a warmer simply to get your students to use some of the tenses you’ve worked on, get a game of moving questions going with a couple of different tenses in the questions. Again – it’s not rocket science, but grammar practice doesn’t have to be complex to be useful.

The grammar auction is another – more subdued – activity you can use to revise tenses.

Have you found any other good grammar practice activities?