The past simple tense is an important lesson for English language learners. Once students learn the past simple tense they can begin to talk about the things they did, the things they saw, and about other events that happened in the past.
So, how do you teach the past simple tense?
To teach the past simple tense your lesson should include the past simple form of regular and irregular verbs, past simple negative forms, and past simple interrogative forms.
Obviously this is a lot to cover in just one lesson, so it’s best to teach the past simple tense over a 3/4 lessons to give your students ample opportunity to practice. Follow the steps below and your students will be speaking English using the past simple tense in no time.
Teaching The Past Simple Tense
Step 1: Context
Before you teach students the different past simple forms, it is important to put the lesson in context so your students understand what they are going to learn. This is especially important with kids because they may have difficulty grasping grammatical concepts such as the past tense.
A great way to put your past tense lesson in context is to draw a simple timeline on the board. Draw a line in the middle and write ‘Today’ and then elicit different ‘past tense’ times, such as yesterday, last week , last year, etc.
Explain to students that we use the past tense to talk about events that happened in the past. Once students have a basic grasp of what the past tense is, it’s time to introduce the past simple tense of regular verbs.
Step 2: Past Simple Form Of Regular Verbs
Choose a regular verb and give students an example sentence in the present simple tense and write it on the board. For example, I walk to school everyday. Next, change this sentence into the past simple tense (I walked to school yesterday.) and write it on the board.
Then, ask students to look at the present tense and the past tense sentences and tell you how the verb changed. Students will likely notice that -ed was added to ‘walk’ to become the past tense form.
Explain how to change regular verbs into the past simple tense by adding -d / -ed / ied and give them plenty of examples to practice.
Step 3: Past Simple Form Of Irregular Verbs
Now that students understand that they must change the verb into the past form in order to make a past simple sentence, it’s time to introduce irregular verbs.
Write another present simple tense sentence on the board but this time with an irregular verb. For example, I speak English everyday. Then ask students to try to guess what the past tense form would be.
Students, especially beginners, may guess it is speaked. Explain to students that irregular verbs do not follow the same rules as regular verbs, and so they must memorize the past simple tense of irregular verbs.
To help students memorize some common irregular verbs you can use this irregular verbs past tense worksheet.
Step 4: Past Simple Negative Forms
Teaching the past simple negative form is quite easy once students know how to make past simple sentences.
Explain to students that to make a negative sentence in the past simple form, they simple add did + not before the infinitive form of the verb. For example, I did not meet Chris yesterday.
Then give your students plenty of opportunity to make negative sentences. A great way to do this is to go around the class and ask each student to say one affirmative past simple sentence and one negative past simple sentence.
For example, I met Sally yesterday. I did not meet Chris yesterday. After each time, ask the other students in the class to change their sentences into the third person. For example, She met Sally Yesterday. She did not meet Chris yesterday.
Step 5: Past Simple Interrogative Forms
Show students how to make past simple questions and write some examples on the board. Then ask students to come up with their own past simple questions and ask their partner.
To practice the past simple interrogative form you can use this past simple questions worksheet.
Ask students to read the questions and write an answer in the past tense, or tell students to ask these questions to their partner and write down their partner’s answer in the past tense.
Step 6: Practice With Past Simple Exercises
The best way for students to learn regular and irregular past simple forms is with a lot of practice.
The following are some online exercises and exercise worksheets your students can use to practice using the past simple tense.
- Past Simple Irregular Exercise 1
- Past Simple Irregular Exercise 2
- Past Simple Regular Exercises
- Exercise Worksheet 1 – Regular Verbs
- Exercise Worksheet 2 – Irregular Verbs
- Exercise Worksheet 3 – Irregular Verbs
Step 7: Review With Some Past Simple Tense Games
Learning about regular and irregular past tense forms can be quite boring for ESL students so make sure when you are teaching the past simple tense to include some fun games and activities.
Here are some ready to use past tense games you can use to review the past simple tense.
Thanks for reading. I hope you found this step by step guide to teaching the past simple tense useful.
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