Teaching verb tenses may seem not so challenging when it concerns doing some grammar exercises but things change when it comes to speaking and using appropriate tenses. Therefore after each written or controlled exercise teachers should focus on finding effective activities to practise these tenses in speech. To make things easier we have made a list of games and activities which will come in handy when teaching verb tenses to your ESL students.

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Present Continuous with Charades

Prepare slips of paper with action verbs already known to your students.

For example:

— drink coffee/tea

— eat porridge/french fries

— play football

— watch TV

— ride a bicycle

Hand out one slip to each of them and get them to act out the activity they have on their paper. Students then make guesses about what their classmates are doing using Present Continuous.

For example:

— Bob is riding a bicycle now.

— You are drinking coffee.

— He is playing football.

For each correct answer, students get one point. If they do not formulate the sentence correctly they will have to sit out the next round, and they won’t get points.

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Mixed Tenses with Surveys

Have your students do some research on one of these topics:

  1. Using social media.
  2. Internet addiction.
  3. British or American accent?
  4. Watching films or reading books?

Divide your students into several groups, 3-5 people in each. Get them to prepare appropriate questions on the topics, such as:

— What social networking sites do you use?

— What are some good points about social networking?

— What new features would you like to see on social websites?

— How much time do you spend using social media?

— Do you think you will be using social networking sites less or more in 5 years?

After the questions are decided, have each group mingle administer their survey to a specified number of people. When they finish their survey, ask them to compile the whole information and present it to the class using appropriate tenses. Here is an example:

We have done a survey on “Using social media” and have asked various questions to 15 people. According to the survey, nowadays most people use Instagram* more than Facebook*. Some of our classmates think that the good point about Instagram* is having all your photos in one place. However, they would like to have a face depicting feature on Instagram*, which will allow the user to tag friends more quickly. On average people spend 2-3 hours on social media. But they are certain that they will be using it less in 5 year’s time.

Any Tense with Truth or Lie

I am sure that all of you know this game. And here is another variation of it. Prepare a list of questions with different tenses, or with the target tense, e.g. Present Perfect. Ask your students to work in groups. One of them is chosen as an answerer and another picks a question. The answerer then rolls the dice, so that the other classmates can’t see it. If the number is odd, then the answer to the question should be truthful; if the number is even, the student should make up a lie. Then the other students ask follow-up questions using different tenses until they figure out whether the answer was the truth or the lie. Each person in the team must ask at least one question until they guess whether the answerer is telling the truth or a lie.

Any Tense with Storyboards

Prepare a story in advance. Lots of incredible ideas can be found on Pinterest. Place the pictures in a jumbled order and get your students to arrange them in order and tell a story. Give clear instructions on what tenses they must use. For the Elementary level, you can ask your students to tell the story in Present Continuous. Intermediate and higher-level learners can use mixed tenses (Present Perfect, Past Perfect, Past Simple, Present Continuous, Future Continuous, etc.).


These were the most effective activities that I use in my classes to help students boost their speaking skills using correct Tenses. You are free to modify and adjust them according to your student’s level, age and interests.

Let us know in the comments below which of the activities you and your students like most!

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*Instagram принадлежит компании Meta Platforms Inc., деятельность которой признана экстремистской и запрещена на территории Российской Федерации.
*Facebook принадлежит компании Meta Platforms Inc., деятельность которой признана экстремистской и запрещена на территории Российской Федерации.
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