Practicing The Past Perfect: 5 No Prep Activities For Busy Teachers

Practicing The Past Perfect
5 No Prep Activities For Busy Teachers

Susan Verner
by Susan Verner 31,509 views

What had you already planned when it was time to review the past perfect?

If your answer is nothing or you aren’t sure what to answer, maybe you need these activities that do just that. Most of them require no preparation and the others only minimal preparation, so they are great for a busy teacher on the go. Each of them challenges your students to use the past perfect in either spoken or written English, and all are easy bring in to your classroom even if you don’t have much time to get ready.

Try These 5 No Prep Activities For Reviewing The Past Perfect

  1. 1

    Remember When

    The end of the school year is a great time to use this review of the past perfect, but you can do it anytime by simply changing the time phrases. To prepare for this activity, just write several past times from this school year on small slips of paper (you might want to use month names or holidays as reference times). For the activity, one student will draw a past time slip of paper. That person must then say something that had already happened by then. For example, if a student draws “December” they might say the following: We had already talked about Thanksgiving in December. If a student makes a correct statement, he scores 5 points. Tell students that they can score ten points if their sentence mentions a grammar point you studied this year. For example, in December, we had already studied the passive voice. That way you get a double grammar review! Students can return their time references to the bag after they make their statement so another student can use them. The game is finished when someone reaches 30 points.

  2. 2

    That’s Not So Strange

    In this activity, students work in groups of two or three to try and stump their classmates with strange situations. Give each group a few minutes to come up with 5 to 10 strange situations that could have happened to a classmate at some in the past. They should write these situations in the simple past. For example, one list might include the following: He wore a dress to school. He ate spaghetti for breakfast. She brought a stuffed animal to class. Etc. Once students have completed their lists, they exchange their papers with another group. Now the groups must come up with logical explanations for the strange situations their classmates have listed, and they should do so by finishing each sentence with a dependent clause beginning with “because”. The explanations should be logical and possible. For example, students might complete the sentences as follows: He wore a dress to school because at that time his sister had stolen all his clothes. He ate spaghetti for breakfast because the morning before he had finished all his cereal. She brought a stuffed animal to class because that day she had walked to class in her sleep.

  3. 3

    What Did He Say?

    If you are practicing the past perfect with your students, it might be a good time to introduce or reintroduce the concept of reported speech. Reported speech is different from quoted speech. In quoted speech, a person recalls the exact words someone else said. In reported speech, a person does not use the exact words of the first person, but he still tells the listener what the speaker said. When using reported speech, verb tenses change. If a person uses the simple past in quoted speech, he must use the past perfect in reported speech. To practice changing tenses for reported speech, put your students in groups of three. Speaker A starts by asking Speaker B a question about the past. For example, what did you have for dinner last night? Speaker B replies using the simple past. I ate spaghetti for dinner last night. Speaker A pretends he did not hear what Speaker B said and asks speaker C, “What did he say?” Speaker C then restates what Speaker B said but uses reported speech to do it. For example, she said that she had eaten spaghetti for dinner last night. Students then switch roles, and speaker B asks the question, speaker C answers with the simple past, and Speaker A restates his answer using reported speech. Have students continue the conversation switching roles after each question.

  4. 4

    Overseas Experience

    If you teach a class of internationals, this activity is your chance to both practice the past perfect and bring culture into your classroom. Part of travelling overseas is experiencing new things in a new culture. Have your students share some things they experienced for the first time after travelling overseas to study English. Students should start their sentences with, “Before I came to the U.S. I had never…” They then finish the sentence with something they experienced for the first time overseas. For example, a student might say, “Before I came to the U.S. I had never taken a subway before.” You can then ask who else in your class had never done that activity.

  5. 5

    The Worst Date Role Play

    Students will work with a partner in this role play to talk about why a date went so wrong. While they do, they will practice using the simple past and the past perfect. One person starts by telling her partner about a terrible date that she had. She should start her story by sharing something that went wrong on the date. For example, my date showed up late. Her partner then asks why that bad thing happened: Why did he show up late? The original speaker then says what happened before that event which caused it: When he left his house, he had already lost my address. The original speaker then shares another problem that happened on the date: The restaurant didn’t have any food. The partner asks why: Why didn’t the restaurant have any food? The first speaker answers with a reason: Before we got to the restaurant they had already run out. Have students continue the role play until they have talked about five problems on the worst date. Then, have students switch roles and repeat the role play.

You will be ready to go even on the busiest of days when you have these past perfect activities ready for your students.

All you need to do is print and go, and your students will be talking about what they had already done in no time.

How often do you use print and go, no prep resources in class?

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