Try These 7 Communicative Activities for Using the Past Perfect Progressive
Quite a Change
If your students travelled overseas to study English, their lives at home were probably quite different from their new lives here. Ask your students to share some things they had been doing in their home counties before they came to your school for their English studies. For example, ‘I had been studying at the university’.
The past perfect progressive often stresses the length of time a person had been doing a certain activity. Write several lengths of time on small slips of paper (one year, two weeks, six month, ten minutes, etc.). Each person takes a turn drawing a card and then shares what they had been doing for that length of time before any other event. For example, a student who draws two years might say, ‘I had been studying English for two years before coming to the U.S.’
You can use a simple game of charades to practice the past perfect progressive tense with your ESL students. Ask one person to come to the front of the class and act out a daily activity (you can assign one or have the student choose his own) while the rest of the class keeps their eyes closed. On your signal, the actor freezes in his charade and the rest of the class opens their eyes. The students then guess what the actor had been doing when they opened their eyes. All questions should be in the past perfect progressive.
Have pairs of students interview each other to determine a significant event in their past. Then, have students ask what their partner had been doing before that event in the past. Each person should share their partner’s answers with the class.
Reporting Past Speech
Students who have practiced reported speech know that verb tenses change when the original sentence is changed to reported speech. Have one student make a statement using the past progressive. A second student must then change that statement to reported speech using the past prefect progressive. For example, if the first student says, ‘I was watching television’, the second student would say, ‘He said he had been watching television before his mother came home’.
Give your student some index cards and ask them to write simple sentences using the simple past tense. Encourage creativity and humor in the sentences. Then collect and redistribute the cards to the class. Each person must now use that simple sentence in a dependent clause (starting with when) and create a main clause using the past perfect progressive that will make a logical sentence. For example, a student might write, ‘The bear ate the campers’ food’. The second student could then write the sentence, ‘When the bear ate the campers’ food, they had been swimming in the lake’.
Using the same sentences as you used in the last exercise as a main clause, have students create a dependent clause (starting with because) that explains the event. For example, a student might write, ‘The bear ate the campers’ food because they had been throwing it at him’.