ESL Exercises in Present Continuous Tense

Written by nancy kyllingstad
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ESL Exercises in Present Continuous Tense
Visuals with activity provide practice for the use of the present continuous verb tense. (people graffiti image by Michele goglio from

The present continuous verb tense describes action occurring in the moment. "He is washing dishes" implies that his hands are in the dishwater right now. Students need a firm grasp of the conjugation of the verb "to be" and knowledge of several verb stems. Give students a variety of practice exercises to help them gain fluency in this form.

Model Sentences

Use overheads of simple activities such as sleeping, eating, walking, etc. Present the model dialogue with sentence frames: "What is she doing? She is _ing." As you display each picture, ask students the first question and have them respond as a class, monitoring correctness. Then go around the room to have students practice verbally, asking and answering the questions. Next, have students work in partners to practice speaking and writing these sentences.


Act out activities for the class and have them describe what you are doing; for example, mimic combing your hair and have them respond, "You are combing your hair." Have students continue this work in partners. After 10 minutes, ask volunteers to dramatise situations for the entire class.

Active Visuals

Display a picture that shows many people engaged in activities, such as in a park setting or a mall. Refer to portions of the picture and ask, "What are they doing?" A logical answer might be, "They are having a picnic." Then have students review the picture in partners and write five sentences in the present continuous about what is happening in the picture. Share these with the class. For an additional review activity, put magazine pictures in clear plastic sleeves and have students in small groups write a paragraph on the activities.


Dictation allow students to self-assess their ability to listen and write correctly. Explain the process first. You will read one sentence three times, and they will record what they hear in correct English. Do not allow questions, but explain that they will get better at listening and writing in phrases. Dictate five sentences with the present continuous. After dictation, ask what they wrote for each sentence and write the answer on the overhead or board.

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