Past Continuous Games, ESL Activities and Worksheets

What was everybody doing?

ESL Past Continuous Game - Miming, Writing and Speaking Activity - Elementary (A1-A2) - 30 minutes

Here is an entertaining free past continuous game for students to play in class. Divide the students into four teams. One student from the first team goes out of the classroom. Give each student in the class 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 and 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 their team for each correct past continuous sentence. A student from the second team goes out and the process is repeated. This continues until each team has had a chance to play. For the final round, collect in the cards and redistribute them. Have everyone do the actions on their cards again without anyone leaving the room. Then, tell the teams that they must now try to remember and write down what the students in the other teams were doing. When the teams have finished writing, ask them to swap papers with another team and go through all the sentences. Teams score one point for each correct sentence. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins.
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It was a cold dark night...

ESL Past Continuous Activity - Reading, Listening Writing and Listening - Pre-intermediate (A2) - 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. Divide the students into groups of 14 and give each student a sentence card. The students read and memorize the sentence on their card. The students then 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.
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Park Life

ESL Past Continuous Activity - Memorizing and Writing - Pre-intermediate (A2) - 25 minutes

In this past continuous memory game, students study a picture for three minutes and then write past continuous sentences about what was happening in the picture. Give each student a copy of the park scene picture. For three minutes, students look carefully at the picture of what was happening in the park yesterday afternoon and try to remember what the people were doing. When the time limit has been reached, take the pictures back and give each student a copy of the worksheet. Working alone, the students write past continuous sentences about what the people were doing in the park yesterday. Students use the words in the box on the worksheet to help them, adding any other words as necessary. Afterwards, check the answers with the class. Students score one point for each sentence that is both factually and grammatically correct. The student with the highest score wins. As an extension, give each pair a copy of the picture and have the students test each other's memory of the picture by asking and answering questions in the past continuous.
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What were you doing?

ESL Past Continuous Game - Listening and Speaking Activity - Pre-intermediate (A2) - 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. Choose a time in the past and tell 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, 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. Play several rounds using different times in the past. The student with the most points at the end of the game wins.
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When, While and As

ESL Past Continuous Game - Listening and Speaking Activity - Pre-intermediate (A2) - 30 minutes

In this imaginative past simple and past continuous game, students connect the past continuous and past simple together with the words 'when', 'while' and 'as'. Give each group of four a set of activity cards and a set of picture cards. The students spread out the two sets of cards separately face down on the desk. 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 a student is unable to make a sentence or the sentence is incorrect, the two cards are 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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Convince Me

ESL Past Continuous Game - Listening and Speaking Activity - Intermediate (B1) - 25 minutes

In this free 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'. Give each group of three or four 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 drinking coffee'. 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 studying English', 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.
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Dream World

ESL Past Continuous Activity - Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking - Intermediate (B1) - 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. Give each group of four 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.
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Past Continuous

ESL Past Continuous Exercises PDF - Reading, Matching and Writing Activity - Intermediate (B1) - 25 minutes

This printable past continuous worksheet helps students learn and practice three ways the tense is used. Give each student a copy of the two-page worksheet. After reading through the grammar introduction, students do a gap-fill exercise where they complete sentences with the past continuous form of the verbs in brackets. Next, students sort the sentences according to how the tense is used in each one. Students then complete sentences with the past simple or past continuous form of the verbs in brackets. In the last exercise, students match past continuous sentences and sentence halves together.
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Interactive Version - In this past continuous interactive worksheet, students complete a range of exercises to learn how to use the past continuous tense in three ways.

 
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