The present continuous tense (also known as the present progressive tense) is used to talk about actions that are happening now or are unfinished.
Examples include eating, singing, reading, running, dancing, etc. This page is an ESL lesson plan to teach the present continuous tense to beginner students.
The games and activities in this lesson plan are mainly aimed at young ESL students. These activities can, however, be adapted to teach older beginner learners.
Download all the materials you need for this lesson in the box below. Check out the bottom of the page for additional games and activities to teach the present continuous (progressive) tense to beginners.
Materials for this lesson:
Teaching The Present Continuous Tense to Beginner ESL Students
Introduction and Warm Up
To warm up and introduce the present continuous tense to students, start off by listening to a fun song. This song by the Silly Billy Band is perfect for this lesson and kids find it very funny.
Play the song and ask students to listen for all the words ending with ‘ing‘. After the song, ask students what present continuous words they can remember and write them on the board.
Next, put these words in context. The present continuous tense describes actions that are taking place at the time of speaking. So, the best and easiest way to demonstrate this to students is to act out the present continuous verb as you are saying it. For example, pick up a book and pretend to read it and say ‘ I am reading.’
Do the same with the other present continuous verbs from the song. As you are saying and acting out the sentences, ask the students to do the same.
Your students will soon gain a basic understanding of the function of present continuous verbs. To introduce the basic structure of the key sentences, play the song one more time. Pause the song after each action and ask students what he/she is doing.
Practice Key Words And Sentences
Using these present continuous flashcards, practice the keywords by showing the flashcards and asking students to repeat after you. Then, ask students to try to say the words on their own. Then ask students to look closer at the flashcards and ask them if they see a boy or a girl.
Explain to students that use ‘he’ to refer to boys and ‘she’ to refer to girls. Practice asking and answering ‘What is he/she doing?’ using the flashcards. Once students have practiced the key expressions enough, it’s time for a fun game to practice some more.
Activity 1: Pass The Ball Game – What is he/she doing?
This Pass the Ball Game, and many other ESL classroom games can be found on our YouTube Channel.
Pass the ball is a great classroom game to practice the present continuous tense. If you’re not familiar with pass the ball, it is an extremely fun classroom game that can be used with any target language.
Students pass the ball to the music, and when the music stops, the student with the ball must do something (answer a question from the teacher, for example). To teach the present continuous tense with this game, when the music stops, the student with the ball must come to the front.
Then show that student a flashcard (for example, ‘running’), and then that student must act out the word. The teacher can then ask the other students, ‘What’s he/she doing?’.
If you would also like to teach ‘What are they doing?’ then when the music stops, the student with ball comes to the front and does not look at the flashcard. The teacher shows the rest of the class the flashcard, and then all the students must act out the word together. The teacher would then ask the student at the front of the class, ‘What are they doing?’ and the student will try to guess.
To make sure this activity runs smoothly, make sure to tell students to PASS the ball and not to THROW the ball. Also, you may want to show students the direction in which to pass the ball around the class.
Activity 2: Board Game – Race Around The World
This board game is best played in pairs and is designed to get your students to make a dialogue using present continuous verbs with their partners.
In this game, students will ‘race around the world’. One student will go clockwise, and one student will go anti-clockwise. To play, students should put their erasers where it says ‘start’ and then play rock, scissors, paper.
The winner can move their eraser on square. Then the students should have a dialogue based on the the picture in that square. For example, one student will ask, ‘What is he doing?’ and the other student will look at the picture and answer, ‘He is eating.’.
Alternatively, to make this game more fun, one student can ask ‘What are you doing?’ and the other student must answer and act out the sentence (for example, ‘I am dancing.’). The first student to make it all the way around the world is the winner. For many more printable board games on many topics, click here.
Activity 3: Level Up Game – What are you doing?
This final activity is a fun speaking game to practice the present continuous tense. To play this game, you must first place one of the present continuous flashcards in each of the 4 corners of the room.
Tell students that each corner of the room is a different level and has a different action. For example, level 1 is dancing, level 2 is eating, level 3 is jumping, and level 4 is swimming.
To start, all students must go to the level one corner and must do the action assigned to that corner. In this example, level 1=dancing, so all students at level one must dance.
While dancing, they must meet a friend and ask ‘What are you doing?’ and they will answer, ‘I am dancing.’ After having a dialogue, they should play rock, scissors, paper.
The winning student can advance to level 2 (eating), and the losing student must stay at level 1 (dancing). Then the students at level 2 should act out eating and meet another level 2 friend and make a dialogue. The level 1 students should continue dancing and meet another level 1 friend and make a dialogue.
Again, after the dialogue students will play rock, scissors, paper, and the winner will advance to the next level. Once a student advances through all 4 levels, they get a point (or sticker) from the teacher and start again at level 1. After about 5 or 10 minutes, stop the game and the student with me most points is the winner.
To make sure this game runs smoothly, be sure to model how to do the activity several times before starting. Also, as there will be many students moving around the classroom, make sure to tell students not to run / push, etc.
At the end of the lesson, review the keywords from the lesson. A great way to do with present continuous verbs is to act out some of the words and ask students to guess what you are doing. Or, to make it more fun for kids, invite some students up to the front to act out the actions and ask the other students, ‘What is he/she doing?’.