Past progressive activities aren’t just to make grammar lessons fun.
Understanding the Past Progressive Tense: An Introduction
Did you know that the past progressive tense is a powerful tool for describing ongoing actions that took place in the past? That’s right! By using the past tense of “to be” (was/were) and the present participle of the main verb (ing), you can transport your listener or reader back in time and give them a sense of what was happening at a specific point in the past.
For example, if you say, “I was studying for my exams when the power went out,” your listener will get a sense of what you were doing at the moment the power went out. They’ll be able to picture you hunched over your books, intensely focused on your studies.
But the past progressive tense isn’t just useful for describing individual actions. It can also be used to describe multiple actions happening at the same time. For example, you could say, “While I was cooking dinner, my roommate was doing the dishes, and my friend was setting the table.” This sentence tells your listener what you were doing at the time and gives them a sense of the scene as a whole and how everyone in the apartment was working together to get dinner ready.
Help your students to remember to use the past progressive tense the next time they want to describe an ongoing action that took place in the past. It’s a powerful tool for bringing their listener or reader into the moment and helping them experience the past as if they were there themselves.”
Illustrating the Past Progressive Tense: Examples and Sentences
Want some more past progressive sentence examples?
- We were having a picnic at the beach when a seagull stole our sandwich.
- I was trying to fix the toaster when I accidentally set the kitchen on fire.
- She was putting on her socks when she fell off the bed.
- I was taking a shortcut through the park when I got lost and ended up in the wrong neighborhood.
- I was eating a burrito the size of my head when I realized I had a food coma coming on.
- He was trying to teach his parrot to talk when it started repeating everything he said in a British accent.
- She was belting out show tunes in the shower when her roommates walked in on her.
- He was tap dancing on the table when the waiter asked him to leave.
- They were playing a heated game of chess while debating the merits of various types of cheese when the power went out.
Sure, you can use dry textbook sentences like “She was cooking dinner when the doorbell rang,” but using creative or funny examples is more attention-getting, isn’t it? If it worked on you, it’ll work on them! Here are some ideas for entertaining past progressive activities that’ll make your grammar lessons anything but dusty.
Bring the Past Progressive Tense to Life with Four Activities
Engaging Short Dialogues for Past Progressive Activities
Pair and small group work is a great way to give your students the opportunity to practice using the past progressive tense in a more realistic and engaging way. By creating and acting out short dialogues, they can put their newfound knowledge into action and see how the tense is used in everyday conversation. To make the activity even more fun, encourage your students to get creative with their roles and scenarios. For example, they could play the roles of
- two roommates (I was trying to be quiet when I accidentally stepped on your cat.)
- a teacher and student (I was doing my homework when I found a silly mistake.)
- a customer and salesperson (I was looking for the cheese when I smelled something bad.)
To create short dialogues using the past progressive tense, follow these steps:
- Divide the class into pairs or small groups of 3-4 students.
- Have each group come up with a scenario that involves the use of the past progressive tense. This could be a conversation between friends, coworkers, or family members or in a situation where one person is interacting with a service provider (a doctor, a server, etc.).
- Have the students brainstorm a list of possible dialogue exchanges using the past progressive tense. For example:
- I was making breakfast when I realized I was out of eggs.
- I was driving to work when I got a flat tire.
- I was trying to order a coffee, but the barista was having trouble understanding my accent.
- Have each group choose one of their dialogues and write it out on a piece of paper or a whiteboard.
- Have the groups take turns presenting their dialogues to the class. Encourage the other students to listen attentively and ask questions if they have any.
- After each group presents, allow time for discussion and feedback. Encourage the students to talk about how well they used the past progressive tense, and give them suggestions for improvement if needed.
This activity not only helps students practice the past progressive tense, but it also helps them develop their conversation skills and build their confidence in speaking in English. As an added bonus, it can also be a great way to get your students interacting and working together as a team.
Perfecting Past Progressive Prowess with Picture Prompts
To use this activity, follow these steps:
- Gather a selection of pictures that depict different actions or scenes. These can be found online, in magazines, or in books.
- Print out or display the pictures for the students to see.
- Give the students a few minutes to look at the pictures and brainstorm sentences using the past progressive tense to describe what is happening in each one. Encourage them to use descriptive vocabulary and consider the context of the scene.
- Once the students have had a chance to generate their own sentences, go over the pictures as a group and have the students share their sentences. Encourage them to listen to each other’s sentences and give feedback or suggestions for improvement.
- As the students share their sentences, write them on the board or a piece of paper for reference. This can be helpful for students who struggle with the past progressive tense, as they can use the sentences as examples for correctly forming the tense.
- After the students have had a chance to practice using the past progressive tense, you can wrap up the activity by reviewing any challenges they faced and reinforcing the key points of the tense.
This activity is great for visual learners, allowing them to see and process the images as they generate sentences. It can also be modified to fit different skill levels by adjusting the complexity of the pictures or the length of the sentences. For more advanced students, you can challenge them to create longer, more detailed sentences or to come up with more complex scenarios. For lower-level students, you can use simpler pictures and shorter sentences to help them focus on the basics of the past progressive tense.
Playing Past Progressive Bingo: A Fun and Interactive Way to Practice the Tense
Past progressive activities like verb bingo are a fun and interactive way to review and reinforce the past progressive tense with your students. To set up the game, simply create a bingo board with past progressive verbs in the squares. Some examples might include working, studying, cooking, driving, watching, listening, singing, dancing, reading, and writing. You can also include more advanced verbs or vocabulary to challenge your students.
To play the game, give each student a bingo board. Then, read out past progressive sentences using the verbs on the board, and have the students mark off the corresponding verb on their board. For example, if you say, “I was HMMMM on my computer,” and “working” is on the student’s bingo board, they would mark it off. The first student to get five in a row (horizontally, vertically, or diagonally) calls out “BINGO!” and wins the round.
Want to make this more challenging? Fill the bingo squares with sentence endings. Read out the beginning, and students will have to listen closely and pay attention to context to mark the ending that matches. For example, if you read “They were playing basketball,” students would mark “when the ball suddenly deflated.” Be sure to create this in a way each sentence beginning only has one ending that would make sense.
This activity is a great way to review and reinforce the past progressive tense in a fun and interactive way while also giving your students the opportunity to listen and understand spoken English at a more natural pace. Plus, get your students engaged and having fun while learning!
Using the Past Progressive Tense to Create and Tell Stories
Short story creation is a great way to give your students the opportunity to practice using the past progressive tense in a more creative and engaging way. To start the activity, have your students work in pairs or small groups to create a short story using the past progressive tense. Encourage them to be creative and use a variety of verbs to bring their story to life. They can choose any topic or genre they like.
As they work on their story, encourage your students to use descriptive language and include details to make their story more interesting. They should also pay attention to the sequence of events and use the past progressive tense appropriately to describe what was happening at different points in the story.
Once they have finished writing their story, have them present it to the class. This could be done in the form of a short play, a slide presentation, or simply by reading the story out loud. Encourage your students to use expressive language and gestures to bring their stories to life and engage their audience.
This activity not only helps students practice using the past progressive tense, but it also helps them develop their writing and speaking skills. You’ll get your students interacting and working together as a team, and it’s sure to be a lot of fun!
Helping Students Master the Past Progressive Tense: Tips for Providing Feedback
It’s important to provide feedback to students during past progressive activities to help them improve their understanding and use of the tense. Here are some tips for providing effective feedback:
- Focus on the content and the language: During the activity, pay attention to the content of the dialogues and the language that the students are using. Are they using the past progressive tense accurately and appropriately? Are they using a variety of vocabulary and structures to express themselves? Note any areas where the students are doing well and any areas where they could improve.
- Be specific and constructive: When providing feedback, try to be specific and focus on what the students are doing well and what they can work on. For example, instead of saying, “Your dialogue was good,” say, “I liked how you used the past progressive tense to describe the actions happening in the scene. Maybe you could try using some more descriptive vocabulary to make the dialogue more interesting.” Avoid making general or negative comments, and focus on offering specific suggestions for improvement.
- Encourage self-assessment: Encourage the students to reflect on their own use of the past progressive tense and think about what they did well and what they could improve upon. This can help them become more independent learners and develop their own skills in using the tense.
- Provide additional resources: If you notice that the students are struggling with a particular aspect of the past progressive tense, consider providing additional resources or explanations to help them improve. This could be a worksheet or a video, or you could let them choose something from your task card library.
- Be positive and supportive: Above all, make sure to give the students positive reinforcement and support as they learn and practice the past progressive tense. Encourage them to take risks and try new things, and recognize their efforts and progress. This can help build their confidence and motivation to continue learning.
The past progressive tense is a powerful way to transport listeners back in time and immerse them in the past. Teaching this valuable language tool to adult ESL students can be a challenge, but there are plenty of fun activities to make it more engaging. From role-plays and picture prompts to sentence building and bingo, these activities provide opportunities for students to practice using the past progressive tense in realistic and creative ways.
Consider stepping outside the box and using creative activities to help adult ESL students learn and practice the past progressive tense – they’ll be grateful for the engaging and interactive approach.