Applying the correct tenses in daily lives could be difficult for children. Once we have introduced the rules of tenses in a class, practicing them in a fun activity can reinforce the teachings. Activities and games are a good way to practice grammar lessons. It is important to pick the well-thought-out tenses activities. We don’t just want to include fun in the class but also instill the teachings. Games are fun but picking the right set of activities requires diligent lesson planning.
Before we explore tenses activities, let’s first learn what are tense and why they are important to us.
What are tenses?
We use the modification of verbs to indicate the timing of an action or event. These modifications are called tenses. As English speakers, we use tenses to show the chronology of time. However, not all languages use time chronologically. For example, the Japanese language puts more value on the hierarchy of relationships between the subject and listeners.
Tenses are broadly divided into three grammatical categories: Present, Past, and Future. These categories can be further divided into four sub-units; simple, perfect, continuous, and perfect continuous. With an enjoyable activity, you can address all three categories of tenses and their sub-units. Further elaborating them with a sufficient number of examples can encourage students to use different forms of tenses in their daily language.
We will take a simple example of ‘moving a chair’ and explore all three categories.
Why tenses activities are important?
Language is an abstract concept. Through tenses activities, we are attempting to visualize this abstraction. We are taking the concepts in books to something more understandable and tangible for students. We know learning English tenses can develop the fundamentals of the language. These activities include many interactive tasks to practice structures of the English language and its functions in both speech and writing.
They provide the following benefits:
- Helps in appropriating the expression through the right usage of verbs.
- Helps in conveying complex ideas through complex sentence structures.
- Determine the connection between different time periods or express the exact time of activity.
- Provide accuracy in grammar use and enhance the communication skills of students.
- Improve the awareness of multiple correlations between the English language and other things.
- Increase the motivation and effectiveness of the instructions.
Classroom Tenses activities
Ideally, our goal is to make children more comfortable and confident around the concepts of grammar. Creative grammar exercises can help us improve students’ participation and overall learning.
Let’s go through some of the exciting tenses activities for classrooms.
1. Guess the tense
- A music box
- A bowl
- Flashcards with verbs from all the different categories of tenses
- Ask students to form a circle.
- Place the flashcards in the bowl.
- Play the music and ask students to pass along the bowl.
- When the music stops, ask the student with the bowl to pick a flashcard and read out the sentence.
- Encourage them to identify the tense used in that sentence.
- The teacher may also ask students to transform the sentence into other tenses. For e.g., if the flashcard says, “I dance,” ask them to convert it into past simple tense – “I danced.”
- If the students guess it right, they stay in the circle, or else they sit down.
- The last student standing is the winner.
2. Make a story
- A set of story prompts
- Pictures related to story prompts
- A bowl with flashcards
- Write the story prompts in different flashcards and place them in a bowl.
- Assemble the children in a circle.
- Pick a story prompt from the bowl and ask the student to continue the story. For e.g., “once upon a time” can be continued by “there was a thirsty crow.”
- To boost students’ interest show them pictures relating to the story prompt.
- Follow the circle and let the story continue.
- Encourage students to make observations on what tenses they are using.
- Ask students about the tense involved in the story.
- Fix their errors if they make a mistake.
- Give them candy every time a student makes the right guess.
- A short story.
- Pick a ten-line story.
- Read them to the students.
- Divide the story into 10 flashcards.
- Encourage children to guess the tenses of the sentences.
- Correct them when they make the wrong guess.
- Now jumble the flashcards and ask students to assemble them chronologically.
4. Describe a situation
- A set of writing prompts
- A paper
- A pen
- Divide the class into different groups.
- Assign each of them a writing prompt from the list.
- Instruct them to use a particular tense to describe their writing prompt.
- Ask the groups to describe the prompt. The condition is to strictly build the story in a single tense. For example, “describe a normal day using the simple present tense.”
- Once the story is finished, review it for errors.
- Ask them to read out the story to the class and encourage exchanging their learnings.
5. Role Play
- A storybook
- Instruct students on how to build sentences based on a given situation.
- Show them how they can use verbs like ‘had’ and ‘have’ to express things that have happened before.
- Assign characters to students from the storybook.
- Ask them to frame dialogues based on their characters.
- Make the students guess the tenses they have used in their dialogues.
- Read their dialogues to the class and make them understand the differences between the tenses used.
- Fix the errors and encourage them to exchange their learnings.
6. What’s in the video?
- A recorded news story, advertisement, or an interview.
- A paper
- A pen
- Play the recorded story in its entirety.
- Take pauses between the segments depending on your student’s attention span.
- Pick a favorite segment and ask students to listen to it carefully the second time.
- Ask students to make a note of what tenses are used in the segment.
- Encourage students to exchange their findings and learnings.
- Repeat the activity with the other segments of the video.
7. Historical Character
- A story based on a historical figure. Like Albert Einstein or Mother Teresa.
- Read to the class the selected story of a historical figure.
- Show them relevant pictures of the celebrity to boost their interest.
- Now teach them how they can rewrite the summary of the story in their own words.
- Ask them to find out which tenses are they using while writing their summary.
- Teach them how to find out past and past perfect sentences in the story.
- Ask them to share their learnings with other students.
8. Who can tell me the right answer?
- A list of active verbs
- A ball
- Arrange the students in a circle.
- Stand at the center of the circle with a list of active verbs.
- Instruct students to give the past tense of the verb assigned the moment they catch the ball.
- Handover the ball to students and assign them a verb.
- Students with correct answers remain in the circle.
Learning tenses is crucial for children. Interested learners can use tenses activities to improve their communication skills and grammar. Now that you know the value of tenses, you could practice them to improve your communication about time. We would recommend going slowly with your tenses lessons. Learn one of the tenses at a time, and as you find fluency, move to the next. You could also keep a journal to record your journey.