There Is, There Are, There Was, There Were…6 Fabulous Activities for Getting Your Verb Right

There Is, There Are, There Was, There Were…6 Fabulous Activities for Getting Your Verb Right

Whether you are introducing verb tenses to your students for the first time or you are reviewing them at the end of your English program, these activities will give your students a chance to use multiple verb tenses all in the same activity.

Enjoy 6 Fabulous Activities for Getting Your Verb Right

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    Verb Tense Chart

    One simple activity which will evaluate how well your students know their verb forms is having them complete a verb tense chart. Make three columns on your chart – past, present, and future. Then decide which verbs you want to test your students on. Put one verb on each line on your paper but in only one of the columns, and vary which form (past, present, or future) you complete on the chart. Make copies of the chart for your students and have them fill in all the missing verb forms. When they are complete, every space in the chart should be full.

  2. 2

    The Most Deprived

    This is an active game that will not only get your students moving but will also challenge them to choose the right verb form when they speak. Have students arrange their chairs in a circle and have one person stand in the middle of the circle. You should have one fewer chair than you have students. The person in the middle makes a negative statement about his past, present, or future about something he didn’t have, couldn’t do, etc. For example, students could say any of the following: I have never eaten steak, I did not have a first birthday party, or I will not get a vacation this year. Any student for whom the statement is also true must get up from his seat and sit down in an open seat. At the same time, the student in the middle will dash to fill one of the seats her classmates vacates. Once everyone is sitting again, you should have one person in the middle. That person then takes a turn making a most deprived statement. Continue until you run out of time for the activity.

  3. 3

    Extreme Makeover

    Before and after pictures are inherently fascinating. We love to see how a person or object can transform from ugly to beautiful (or sometimes vice versa). Gather some before and after pictures for use in this activity. The pictures can be of people, buildings, historical sites, or anything that appeals to your class or ties into your current unit. Give a pair of students both pictures and then have them point out the differences between the two using past and present verb forms. Also have them make predictions about the person, place, or thing in the future.

  4. 4

    Travel Agent Role Play

    Everybody likes to take vacations, but sometimes our best efforts do not turn out the way we hope them to. In this role play, one or more students plays the vacationers who booked a trip through a travel agency. The other person plays the travel agent who booked the trip. The vacationers are back at the travel agency to complain to the travel agent. Their vacation was nothing like it was supposed to be. Students will tell the travel agent how their vacation was supposed to be and how it really was using various past tenses as well as conditional forms. They can also make demands for recompense using future tenses. If you like, have groups of students perform the role-play in front of the class and follow up with a vote on which vacationers had the worst experience.

  5. 5

    I Spy

    I just love using I-spy books in the ESL classroom. They are great for vocabulary development and story generation. In this activity, they can also be used to practice various verb tenses. Project a complex picture from an I-spy book for your class for a very short period of time. Thirty seconds usually works well. Challenge students to notice everything they can from the picture. Then hide the picture and ask students to share what details they remembered from the picture. Another activity you can do with the same picture is to sit your students in two rows facing each other – one row with their back to the board. Have one person look at the complex picture for a short period of time and then give instructions to his partner as she attempts to draw/recreate the picture.

  6. 6

    What Happened?

    This fun activity gets students involved in stumping their classmates. Have one person volunteer to leave the classroom for a few minutes. Once that person is in the hallway, have the students in class make several changes to the classroom. They might change seats, move decorations, or erase the front board. After the changes have been made, the first student returns to the room. She must then see how many changes she can identify. She can make statements in past or present tenses. If she finds all the changes, she gets a free homework pass to use at her leisure.

Mixing up verb tenses is very important for ESL students to practice. In real world language use, they will have to understand and produce many verb tenses in the same conversation. That is why it’s essential to practice these skills in class before encountering them in the real world. Though some students may be intimidated by using the past, present, and future all at the same time, the practice will do nothing but benefit them once they are no longer in your classroom.

What are your favorite activities for practicing multiple verb tenses at one time?

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