Past Continuous Games and ESL Activities

Action!

ESL Past Continuous Game - Writing and Speaking Activity - Elementary - 30 minutes

Here is an entertaining past continuous game for students to play in class. The students begin by doing a quick TPR activity to review the language on a set of activity cards. The class stands up. When you shout out one of the activities on the cards, all the students do the mime or action. After that, the students are divided into four teams. The students then play a game to practice the past continuous tense. One student from the first team goes out of the classroom. Each student in the class is then given an activity card. Everyone starts miming or doing the action on their card and the student outside comes in. The students continue for a few more seconds, then stop. The student who went outside then makes past continuous sentences about what everyone was doing when he or she came in. The student scores one point for each correct past continuous sentence. A student from the second team goes out and the process is repeated. This continues for a few rounds. For the final round, you leave the classroom and when you come back in, the teams must try to remember and write down what the students in the other teams were doing. Teams score one point for each correct sentence. The scores are added to the previous rounds to find the ultimate winning team.  
 

What were you doing?

ESL Past Continuous Game - Listening and Speaking Activity - Elementary - 20 minutes

In this fun past continuous game, students use the word 'while' and the past continuous to make sentences about what they and other students were doing at certain times in the past. The students sit in a circle. The teacher chooses a time in the past and tells the students to think about what they were doing at that time, e.g. 8 o’clock last night. One student begins by telling the class what they were doing at that time by making a past continuous sentence, e.g. 'I was watching a movie at 8 o’clock last night'. The next student then repeats the previous student's sentence using 'while' and adds what he or she was doing, e.g. 'While Tom was watching a movie, I was playing a game on my phone'. Then, each student in turn repeats the previous students' sentences with 'while' and adds their own sentence, e.g. 'While Tom was watching a movie and Derek was playing a game on his phone, I was waiting for a bus'. If a student can’t remember another student's sentence or makes a grammar mistake, they are out of that round. The round finishes when the turn comes back around to the first student. Students score one point if they manage to stay in the game. Several rounds are played using different times in the past. The student with the most points at the end of the game wins.               
 

Convince Me

ESL Past Continuous Game - Speaking Activity - Pre-intermediate - 25 minutes

In this engaging past continuous game, students ask and answer questions about what they were doing at certain times yesterday. This activity also helps students to practice asking for and giving explanations with 'because', 'in order to' and 'so that'. The class is divided into groups of three or four and each group is given a set of picture cards and a set of time cards. The students deal out the picture cards and place the time cards face down in a pile. The first student picks up the top time card from the pile and asks the player on their right what they were doing at that time yesterday, e.g. 'What were you doing at 6:00 a.m. yesterday?' The player must then choose one of their picture cards, show the card to the other students, and give a convincing answer that matches with the time on the card, e.g. 'I was taking a bath'. If the answer is appropriate for that time of day, the player can discard their picture card. If the answer is doubtful, e.g. 'I was climbing a tree', the other students challenge the player and ask them to provide a convincing explanation as to why they were doing that activity at that time of day. If the player can provide a reasonable explanation, the picture card can be discarded. If not, the player must keep the picture card. The next student then picks up a time card and asks the player on their right what they were doing at that time yesterday and so on. The first player to get rid of all their picture cards wins the game.
 

Dream World

ESL Past Continuous Activity - Reading, Writing and Speaking - Pre-intermediate - 40 minutes

In this past continuous activity, students practice making sentences from picture cards. The students then write a story about a dream using the past continuous and past simple. The students begin by reviewing the past continuous tense. Each group of four is given a set of picture cards, which they shuffle and deal out evenly. The first student in each group starts by asking the second student what they were doing at 3 o'clock yesterday afternoon. The second student picks up the top card from their pile and responds by making a past continuous sentence using the card as a prompt. The student does this by thinking of an activity associated with the picture. The second student then asks the third student the same question, and so on, until all the cards have been used. When the groups have finished, they write a story about a dream by completing a text in the past continuous and past simple. The students shuffle all their picture cards together and each student chooses three pictures. Each group must include all the things in the pictures in their story. The groups then write their stories. When all the groups have finished, the students read out their stories to the class. Afterwards, the class votes for the strangest or funniest one.     
 

It was a cold dark night...

ESL Past Continuous Activity - Reading, Writing and Listening - Pre-intermediate - 40 minutes

In this challenging past continuous activity, students put a ghost story in order by saying and listening to sentences. Students then write the story down in a group dictation. The grammar focus is on the past continuous and past simple. The class is divided into groups of 14 and each student is given a sentence card. The students read and memorize the sentence on their card. When the students have memorized their sentence, they work with the people in their group and form a circle in the order of the story by saying their sentences aloud. Students have to repeat their sentence several times and listen to the other students’ sentences carefully in order to achieve the correct order. When the story is in order, the students number their cards (1 to 14) accordingly. After that, each student dictates their sentence to the rest of the group, starting with the student who has the first sentence. The students then take it in turns to read out their sentences in order for the rest of the group to write down. When everybody has written down the story, the students check their story for any mistakes.
 

When, While and As

ESL Past Continuous Game - Speaking Activity - Pre-intermediate - 30 minutes

In this imaginative ESL game, students connect the past continuous and past simple together with the words 'when', 'while' and 'as'. The class is divided into groups of four and each group is given a set of activity cards and picture cards. The students spread out the two sets of cards face down on the desk, keeping the two sets separate. The students then take it in turns to turn over an activity card and picture card and make a sentence in the past continuous and past simple with 'when', 'while' or 'as', using the two cards as prompts, e.g. 'I was riding my bicycle when a fly flew into my mouth'. The other students in the group judge each sentence. If the group members agree that a sentence is correct, the student who made the sentence keeps the two cards. If they think the sentence is wrong, they challenge the student. The two cards must then be turned back over and play passes to the next student. Students continue in this way until all the cards have been used. The student with the most cards at the end of the game wins.
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