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Past Tense – A Complete ESL Lesson Plan

Past Tense Lesson Plan

In this lesson students will learn simple past tense verbs and sentences while playing fun classroom games. 

Once students learn how to use the past tense then they can use this language to talk about themselves and what they did yesterday, before the lesson, at the weekend, during the vacation, etc. 

To help students use the past tense fluently, after teaching this lesson, talking about the past tense can become part of your classroom routine. 

This page is a complete ESL lesson plan to teach the simple past tense using both regular and irregular verbs. 

If you would rather focus on just regular verbs, then the activities in this lesson can be easily adapted for that. 

All the materials for the games and activities in this lesson can be found below. For more past tense lesson materials not included in this lesson plan check the section at the bottom of the page. 

Materials for this lesson:

Simple Past Tense Lesson Plan for Beginner ESL Students

Introducing The Past Tense

Before teaching students the past tense form, it is important to put the lesson in context so that students can understand what it is they will learn. 

A great way to introduce the past tense is to draw a simple timeline on the board. In the middle of the timeline write ‘today’ and ask students what day it is today and write that day on the board. 

Next, ask students what day it was yesterday and write that day on the left side of the timeline. Do the same for tomorrow and write that day on the right side. 

Using this simple timeline, demonstrate the meaning of ‘past’ to students and elicit other times in the past ( last week, last year, last weekend, before class, winter vacation, etc). 

Once students understand what they are going to learn, it’s time to introduce some past tense verbs. 

Practice Key Words And Sentences

Tell students that in order to talk about the past, we need to change the verb into the past tense. 

Write some regular verbs on the board (watch, play, walk, talk, cook, etc.) and show students how to change into the past tense by adding ‘ed’. Ask students to repeat after you and practice saying each past tense verb. 

Next, explain to students that not all verbs follow this rule as there are many irregular verbs. 

Write some on the board and drill the past tense verbs with students. (Note: You may wish to teach the past tense over 2 or more lessons. If so, teach the simple past tense verbs first, and teach irregular verbs in the next lesson.)

Once students are used to changing verbs into the past tense, it’s time to practice some more with a fun guessing game. 

Activity 1: Past Tense Guessing Game

This game is great to introduce the past tense to students and is a fun way to practice making past tense sentences. In this past tense game, students will see how to change a verb into the past tense. 

Then an image which is hidden behind some colored shapes is slowly revealed. Students must guess what the picture is of and use that word to complete the past tense sentence. 

To play, simply play the above video in class and pause when students are ready to guess. 

Activity 2: Past Tense Memory Game

PowerPoint Memory Game

This past tense PowerPoint Game is a great activity to practice past tense verbs while testing students’ memories. 

In this game, students must try to find the matching present tense and past tense verbs. To play, divide the class into two teams. 

Then the teams will take turns in choosing two numbers. Click on the numbered squares to reveal the verb below. If the two verbs are a matching pair (e.g. ‘go’ and ‘went’) then that team gets a point. 

If they are not matching (e.g. ‘go’ and ‘studied’) then click on the red circle to hide the word again. 

This past tense memory game becomes incredibly fun once students start to remember where the matching verbs are. 

For more free memory games like this, and for a blank editable template, visit out PPT Games page

Activity 3: Mystery Box Game – Past Tense

This final game will encourage learners to make their own past tense sentences in a fun way. 

To play, divide the class into two teams. The teams will then take turns in answering the question (there are 10 questions). 

After each question, students must make their own past tense sentence using the verb provided. Then, the team must choose to keep the box, or give the box to the other team.

Inside the box is either plus points (e.g. +1000) or minus points (-1000). At the end of the game, the team with the most points is the winner. 

For more activity videos on many topics, check out our ESL Game Videos page

Review

Before finishing the class, review the past tense verbs and sentences from the lesson. A great way to do this is to ask students to ask their partner ‘What did you do (yesterday / last weekend)?’. 

Once students have asked their partner, then ask students to tell you what their partner did yesterday / at the weekend. 

In future lessons, this can become part of your classroom routine and this will help students to master the past tense and become more fluent. 

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