Are You Tense About Tenses? 5 Tense Review Activities
There is no need to be tense about tenses. One of the best ways to ensure that students are progressing is to provide occasional review of several of the tenses the students have been learning.
It can work really well to combine that review with other topics, themes or grammar points so that students can get the most out of a refresher lesson. These 5 tense review activities will have your students asking to do them again and again!
Try These 5 Tense Review Activities
Flashcards are suitable for most any level of tenses or conjugations. They are valuable because once you have made them you can use them for all different types of drills, activities and prompts. Students appreciate the opportunity to work with cards as they are something hands-on that they can touch and manipulate. You can generate all types of card activities, and remember that the point is to get the students working together. You’ll definitely want to have a selection of cards for irregular past tense verbs. You can create sets of cards for all the irregular verbs and then use them as prompts, to play matching games, or to do perform various drills. Then once you get to higher level tenses you can refer back to the past tense cards and combine them with helping verb cards or time markers.
Students always struggle with question formation in any tense. Basing activities around this practice can be really useful in order to solidify one tense or compare several at a time. There is also the issue of creating information questions vs. yes/no or closed questions. It’s a good idea to practice both types in a variety of ways. You could provide simple prompts like:
Mary/movies: See how many questions they can make with simple prompts
You could do a mingling exercise like Find Someone Who and use all the tenses they have learned recently. If you provide the prompt, the students will have to formulate the questions. For example, Find someone who…
Has had a tooth ache (what will they have to ask each other?)
Had been a doctor in their country
Has been learning English for more than 4 years
Name all the Tenses
Finding fun and realistic ways to show learners how tenses operate and differ can be very informative. A worthwhile way to review tenses is to bring in a variety of different kinds of passages. You can focus on your students’ interests and provide an assortment of clippings from newspapers, magazines, use the internet, or even compose your own. The best types of passages are ones that weave in several tenses, tell a compelling story, and use some other element like humor or satire. That way the students aren’t only analyzing the tenses, but they have a lot more to discuss and ask questions about. Often it can be fun to create some kind of competition for these activities as well. You could give them a time limit and tell them that the person who finds 5 different tenses and identifies them is the winner. There are a lot of ways to use passages that don’t simply require the students to read and answer questions. If you want to focus on tenses, another engaging way is to do a cut-up passage, in which you provide a passage that is cut up into sentences and mixed up. The students then have to figure out the order and identify the tenses used in each sentence. This is a way to practice sequence and to provide students an opportunity to use critical thinking skills.
Sing It Out Loud
Using music in the classroom can be a great way to review tenses and shake up the routine. Generally when choosing a song you want to choose carefully to make sure the language is understandable and that the tenses being used are consecutive throughout the song. If you can find a song that has two or three repetitive tenses and also has a strong meaning that can be analyzed, you have found the perfect song. The best way to present music in class is to first review the tenses that it focuses on. Then introduce the band or artist, and then jump into the music. With most songs, it is a good idea to have a cloze exercise ready to go and decide how you want to present the music. You can have them listen to it several times, you can give them the fill-in-the-blank worksheet the second time through, or you can even have them learn and sing parts of the song if you are so inclined. Any combination that takes your class and their level into consideration will be a welcome break from the usual grammar activities. Many teachers consult the artists like the Beatles, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson or the Rolling Stones to find a song that is applicable. There are lots of resources online for the lyrics as well as for downloading songs.
There are a few ways you can do sentence matching to make it more or less interactive. You can do them on a worksheet and have students match two parts of a sentence or match a sentence to its tense. Another way would be to do this in a card game format where each student gets multiple half sentences. They then walk around the room and find the missing half of their sentence by asking questions pertaining to their card. Combinations must be grammatically correct and logical. Remind students that they should pay attention to punctuation. You can also do this on the board and make it a race between two teams who can match the most sentences correctly. You’ll definitely want to include challenging structures and have some halves that could have multiple answers.
Grammar, especially tenses, can sometimes get weighed down in the mundane.
Every so often it is necessary to mix things up and prepare activities that the students don’t do very often. It is also a good tool to observe how the students are putting their learning to practical use.
I am an ex-ESL teacher who has transitioned from that industry into the field of adult education. I have a long history of teaching ESL in numerous countries and varied classroom settings. I’ve also taught a variety of learners, but found I loved teaching teens and adults the best. I spent three years certifying and training want-to-be teachers in China and the Czech Republic. I am also a writer and editor interested in anything to do with education, travel, and lifelong learning.
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