If you’re looking for some present simple (also known as simple present) activities, games, worksheets or lesson plans, then you’re in the right place! Have some fun teaching the simple present to ESL/EFL students with these engaging, interactive and student-centred activity ideas.
What is the Present Simple?
You can use the the simple present to describe something that’s happening right now (I feel sad). It can also describe something that happens regularly (He plays soccer on Tuesday nights). It’s also useful for habits (He smokes), to give instructions (Go about 2 more minutes and then turn left), or to talk about a fixed arrangement (The exam begins at 9:30).
Depending on the person, an “s” or “es” can be added to the base form of the verb.
Simple Present Activities
Let’s get into the best present simple games and activities.
#1: Running Dictation
This is a classic, 4-skills ESL activity that students really enjoy and it’s one of the best present simple speaking activities. The best part is that it works for almost any grammar point or vocabulary set, including the simple present.
Find, or write a conversation between two people that uses the simple present. A nice topic is weekly routines (I play soccer on Tuesday night. My kids have tennis lessons on Mondays). Students have to work together to dictate the conversation and then put it into the correct order. Find out more about it:
#2: Is that Sentence Correct?
I love to use this activity for just about any grammar concept. Write some sentences that contain the target grammar. Some are correct, some are not. Students have to decide which ones are incorrect and make the required changes.
#3: Basketball Game Challenge for the Present Simple
Try out this fun, active game for all ages. It’s especially ideal for kids with a lot of energy to burn! The students have to answer simple present questions until they get close enough to the “basket” where they think they can score. It works especially well for the present simple affirmative and negative.
Check it out:
#4: Simple Present Dictogloss
This is a challenging listening activity that works well for the present simple. Find, or write a passage with lots of uses of the target grammar. Some good topics would be habits or giving instructions for something.
Put students into pairs and read it out at a faster-than-normal pace. Students take notes and attempt to recreate what they heard. Read it out again and students do the same thing. After that, everyone can compare what they have with the teacher’s version. Learn more:
#5: Vocabulary Auction
This is one of my favourite activities! It requires a bit of effort to prep but it’s worth it. Make some sentences that contain the simple present. Make them general enough that students can mix and match them. Cut up each individual word.
Put students into teams and give them some money. They have to bid on words that they think will help them make a complete sentence. After that, there’s a trading time amongst teams. Finally, the team with the most grammatically correct sentences is the winner. Check it out:
#6: Dialogue Substitution
Have you ever noticed that if you assign a pair of students a dialogue to read, they often just blow through it and can’t answer any questions about what they’ve just read? Of course, it’s not their fault. It’s that I haven’t given them a reason to pay attention!
A nice way to combat this is to remove some of the key words. In this case, they could be the verbs in the simple present form. Turn this activity into a simple reading one into one that is focused on meaning as well:
#7: Try out the Test Teach Test Approach for the Simple Present
Unless students are absolute beginners, it’s likely that they already know a fair bit about the simple present, including verb endings. That’s why I like to use this approach. It can show you what students know and what they don’t, so you can target your lesson to the stuff that they don’t. Learn more:
#8: Daily Schedule Activity
The simple present is used to talk about daily or weekly schedules. For example:
- My son plays baseball on Sundays.
- I go to work at 8:30.
- My family usually eats take-out pizza for dinner on Friday nights.
Here’s an activity to try out:
#9: Got to Hand it to You
Try out this fun activity that makes something old (error correction) into something new again! Teams have to race against each other to correct all of the errors. Learn more:
#10: Board Games
It’s easier than you might think to design your own board game for just about any grammar concept, including the simple present. It does take a bit of time but it’s totally worth it if you can use the games for more than one class. It’s ideal for the simple present affirmative and negative.
Have a look here for how to do that:
#11: Use Presentation Practice Production
This is a way to teach languages that you’ll find used in most ESL/EFL textbooks. It’s a nice option for the simple present. Have a look at this brief overview:
#12: SOS Review Game
This is a nice game to review just about anything, including the simple present! Have a look here for the details:
I know that dictation is a bit old-school but it’s quite effective for teaching something like the simple present. Say a question using the simple present (What time do you go to bed?) and students have to write it down in their notebooks. Then, they can answer the question (I go to bed at 8:30).
Also, do the opposite. Say a statement (I play soccer on Tuesday nights) and students have to write the question (What do you do on Tuesdays?/When do you play soccer?).
#14: Present Simple Speaking Activity Hot Potato
If you want to have some fun in class, try out hot potato! Students have to pass around an object and when the music stops (look on YouTube for hot potato music), they have to answer a question. In this case, it would be questions related to the simple present.
#15: Me Too!
This is a simple listening activity that works very well for the simple present. Students can make statements about habits or schedules. For example:
- I like soccer.
- I hate pizza.
- I study English after school.
- I go to bed at 9:00.
If someone else does the same, they can raise their hands and say, “Me too!”
#16: Word Challenge Whiteboard Race
#17: True or False?
Students have to make 5 statements about their daily routines or about themselves. For example,
- I go to bed at 9:30.
- My family goes out to eat on Friday night.
- I play soccer well.
- My mom cooks dinner most nights.
- I take the bus to work.
The student can share their statements in a group and the other people can decide which ones they think are true and which ones they think are false.
To level up, you could even have students ask some questions using the affirmative and negative.
#18: How to Teach Grammar (Including the Present Simple)
Check out these tips, tricks, and a lesson plan template for teaching any grammar concept, including this one. It’s easier than you might think to plan your own lesson!
#19: Memory Circle
#20: Introduce your Partner
This is a simple activity that’s ideal for small classes. Or, you can put students into pairs and they can join together with 1 or 2 other pairs to do the second part of the activity.
Students can interview each other about their lives (Do you like _____? What do you like to do in your spare time). Once they gather some information, they can introduce that person to the class or larger group (This is Bob. He likes to play soccer in his free time. He also goes out to eat with his friends.)
More Ideas for Teaching English
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 148 Pages - 03/09/2016 (Publication Date)
It’s time for some fresh, new ideas for teaching English! The key to better TEFL classes is a wide variety of student-centred, interactive activities and 101 ESL Activities has more than 100 of them. Pick up your copy today and get ready for better English classes tomorrow:
Present Simple Worksheets
Save some time by using these simple present worksheets designed for English learners:
Simple Present ESL Lesson Plans
Why reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to? Instead, consider one of these high-quality present simple lesson plans. Here are some of the best ones:
Simple Present Games Online
If your students want some additional practice opportunities, here are a few online resources they can check out:
Teaching the Present Simple FAQs
There are a number of questions that people have about teaching the simple present for ESL/EFL. Here are the answers to some of the most common ones.
What are the steps to introduce the present simple?
Here are the steps for introducing the present simple:
- Set the context.
- Introduce the simple present through a reading or listening passage.
- Students answer simple questions.
- Students read or listen again and answer more difficult comprehension questions.
- Practice exercise.
- Freer practice opportunity.
How do you explain the present simple?
To explain the present simple, tell students that it’s used to talk about actions that happen regularly, habits, what’s happening right now, or for fixed arrangements at any time.
How do you teach simple present questions?
To teach simple present questions, make a statement (John goes to school at 8:30). Then, help students make a question (What time does John go to school?). Help students until they have some confidence and then have them practice on their own.
How do you teach the simple present in a fun way?
To teach the simple present in a fun way, use some interactive games and activities such as a vocabulary auction, running dictation or board games.
Simple Present Activities: Join the Conversation
Do you have any favourite games or activities for teaching the simple present? Leave a comment and let us know about it! We’d love to hear from you.
Last update on 2023-09-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API