Most language teaching involves the task of helping students understand verb tenses. Although verb tenses are often seen as a difficult and dull part of language learning, there are plenty of fun activities to make lessons more enjoyable and bring the language to life. Most activities teaching verb tenses involve students practising and using the language.
One of the most difficult aspects of teaching verb tenses is helping students to memorize all the irregular verb conjugations. With a few sets of cards, students can play games similar to Happy Families to help them memorize the irregular forms. You will need a set of cards containing the conjugated forms of five irregular verbs. Mix up the cards and deal them to students in groups of three or four. The aim is to get a full set of a particular verb. Players do this by taking it in turns to ask other players for the missing cards. This helps students to memorize irregular verbs because while playing the game, students have to repeatedly say them.
Find Someone Who
This popular language activity can be used for practising different verb tenses. Students are given a list of sentences beginning with the ‘’Find someone who’’ phrase. The ending of the sentence will depend on which tense is being practised. For example, it could be: ‘’Find someone who has seen an elephant.’’ to practice the present perfect tense, or ‘’Find someone who likes coffee’’ to practice the present tense. Students change the sentences into yes / no questions and mingle with their classmates to find out who has seen an elephant, likes coffee, or whatever the question is. The person who finds the most people answering ''yes'' is the winner! This activity is useful for teaching one specific tense, or for reviewing multiple tenses.
Using a story is a fun and interesting way to introduce a new verb tense, as well as for students to practise producing the new tense. Students can ask questions about the story, re-tell the story in a different tense, ask ‘’What if’’ questions to practise the past perfect or they can predict what will happen next to practice future tenses. Students can also write their own version of the story, or make up a new one entirely.
Pictures showing lots of action and simple cartoon strips are a rich resource for teaching verb tenses. Students in groups can describe what is happening in the picture to practise present tenses, then turn over the picture and try to remember what was in the picture for past tenses. Students can see the start of a cartoon story and then predict what will happen next to practice future tenses.
Spot the Mistake
Quizzes and board games are fun ways to teach verb tenses. Students play a board game in teams. When a player lands on a starred square, they must turn over a slip of paper. On the paper is a sentence using a verb tense but with an error in it. The player must identify the mistake or miss a turn. You could use the same incorrect sentences for a team quiz with the whole class.