Past Continuous is one of the obscure tenses which requires a lot of effort both from a learner and a teacher. To make it more understandable, use fun activities. They will help students to practice the tense in a calm atmosphere and strengthen their skills. Activities are suitable for students with Pre-Intermediate and higher levels.

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  1. While you were sleeping
  2. Where is Wally?
  3. What were we doing?
  4. Past news  
  5. Give me a good reason
  6. What you didn’t do
  7. Random words
  8. Scenes
  9. Feeling
  10. Freeze-frame

While you were sleeping

An old but amazing movie “While you were sleeping” with Sandra Bullock would be a great resource to practice Past Continuous. 

First, show your students the poster of the film and ask them if they have seen it. If they say yes, ask them to retell what they remember about it. Then play the trailer and after watching have them make as many sentences as they can with “while you were/he was sleeping”. 

For example,

While he was sleeping, she met his family.

If your students haven’t seen the movie, they try to guess what the movie is about. Then watch the trailer, check their guesses and then make sentences using what they have seen.

You can also use the special cards to have them make such sentences. 

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Where is Wally?

The series of book “Where is Wally“ (“Where’s Waldo?“) are a great source to take up a memory challenge. It’s a puzzle book where dozens of people are illustrated doing a variety of amusing things at a given location. Readers are challenged to find a character named Wally hidden in the group. 

Show students the illustrations and give them a minute or two to study the picture. When time is up, close it and ask them what people were doing. You can provide a list of words to make sentences or ask them specific questions about the picture.

For example,

What were the elephants doing?
How many people were getting on the bus?
Who was holding a big fork?

What were we doing?

Write down several time words.

For example, 

yesterday at 8 a.m.
last Sunday at 1 p.m.
the day before yesterday at 5 p.m.
last night at 12:00 a.m.

Tell your students what you were doing at that time (for example, I was having dinner at 7:30 yesterday) and ask them to tell you what they were doing at the same time. Students answer and then make a full sentence adding the information you gave them. For example, I was working, while you were having dinner.

You can also be interested in:

Past news

Ask students about their favorite celebrities. Their task is to search their name and random dates to find out what they were doing on that day and make sentences in Past Continuous. For example, Jennifer Aniston was still dating Brad Pitt in 2004. Or they can open their social media page and choose a random picture to describe it. 

Give me a good reason

Prepare a few strange situations.

For example, 

shadow boxing 
spinning round your chair
slapping yourself around the face
standing by the water cooler and chatting with all the people who went past
sharpening every pencil in your department
changing the age on your student ID
putting your trainers in the microwave
sticking bubblegum to your shoe

Start your sentence with “When I saw you, you were slapping yourself around the face”. Students need to explain why they were doing it. For example, “I was trying to catch the fly”. Encourage them to be as creative as they can. 

What you didn’t do

Have your students make a list of what they did and didn’t do yesterday. Then ask them about the things they didn’t do. For example, “Why didn’t you go to school?” Their task is to answer using Past Continuous, “I didn’t go to school because instead I was playing football”. Change the roles and give them your list of things you did and didn’t do. Have students guess why you didn’t do them. 

Random words

Prepare a few pairs of random words and give them to students. They try to make a sentence using these words — one in Past Simple, the other in Past Continuous. For example, the words are: station and whisper. “I was looking for the way to the station when I heard a whisper”. Ask them to look at the second pair of the words and make a similar sentence which will somehow relate to the first sentence.      


Prepare scenes from different movies in which actions are interrupted during the segment. Ask students to make sentences using when and while. For example, open different scenes from the movie “The Pursuit of Happyness” and pause at them moments where the actions have been interrupted.

For example,

The man was mopping the floor when Chris asked him about the inscription on the wall.
Chris was setting the table while his son was eating.  


Prepare a list of descriptive feeling words.

For example, 

broken hearted

Have students look at it and choose one of these words without saying what they have chosen. Ask them to think of an imaginary person doing some actions which can make them think that this imaginary person was feeling that way. For example, “He was sitting on a settle and spinning a phone round”. Teacher guesses the adjective. “Was he feeling depressed?” If it isn’t a correct guess, students add some more information. “I don’t think so. He was also staring at the girl who was standing not far from him”.    


Choose some episodes from a movie/cartoon where a lot of actions happen and play them one by one. While watching, suddenly pause the video and ask students to describe what was happening in as much detail as they can. Then play the video again to check their guesses. 

You can also choose a character which actions students should follow. Every time this character appears, pause the video and have students remember what that person was doing last time they saw him.

More useful for lessons:

Hope these ideas will make your Past Continuous lessons more refreshing and challenging.

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