& Teacher Guide
1. Start the class by telling the students a short story. I have included an example, but you can use something different if you want to make it more relevant to your context. The most important thing is that your story includes an example of the past continuous being used with the past simple to indicate one action interrupting another.
I’ve had a terrible day today! This morning I was brushing my teeth when suddenly I heard a loud noise. I was so surprised, I dropped my toothbrush and ....... it fell in the toilet!
I usually make my story a little bit dramatic by miming my actions, emphasising the words loud and so and pausing after and....... After the story, ask your students to try and reconstruct it. As they reconstruct the story, write it on the board. Once you have reconstructed the whole story, underline I was brushing and I heard, as shown above. Ask the students to tell you what tense each verb is (I was brushing- past continuous, I heard- past simple).
2. Tell the students that in this lesson, they will practise using the past continuous and past simple tenses together. Explain that the students will make human timelines. You will need the following materials, the past, future and now signs, the past continuous and past simple printouts and a piece of string.
Choose two students. Give one the past sign and the other the future sign. Ask them to hold one end of the string each and show their signs.
Next, choose a student to hold the now sign. Ask him or her to stand somewhere between the past and future.
Explain to the students that the string represents time.
Then explain that you will use the timeline to represent the sentence I was brushing my teeth when suddenly I heard a noise. Choose a student and give him or her the wavy line. Explain that the wavy line represents a continuous action. Ask the student which part of the sentence the wavy line represents (I was brushing). Ask the student to decide where to stand on the time line (He or she should be in between past and now).
Choose another student give them the straight line that represents the past simple. Explain that the students in the timeline will say the sentence and at the correct time, he or she should place the past simple sign in the correct place. (The past simple sign should be placed should somewhere on the wavy line as it is said in the sentence).
3. Now the students will practise making the timelines. You will need the cut up sentences (page 10). On the table, put the string, the wavy and straight line cut outs. Hand out the past, future and now signs and the two sentence halves to individual students. Ask them students to find what they need from the table and stand in position to make the timeline. (The students with the past and future cards should pick up the string, the student with the sentence half that includes the past continuous should pick up the wavy line, the student with the sentence half that includes the past simple should pick up the straight line). Finally, ask the students to read the two sentence halves. Continue the activity until you have used all the sentences.
4. Hand out the small pieces of paper. Explain that the students should write the first part of a sentence using the present continuous tense. For example in the sentence from number 1, the sentence half would be I was brushing my teeth when.... The sentence should be written using I. Then ask the students to fold over the paper so that the sentence cannot be seen and pass the paper to the student next to them. The students must complete the sentence using the past simple. They must not unfold the paper. Explain that the students can write any sentence they like, this activity works well with funny or silly sentences. Collect in the papers.
5. Split the class into two teams. Open a piece of paper. Choose enough students from one team to act out the sentence. Ask them to read the sentence outside the class and decide how to act it. They are not allowed to speak, they can only use actions. Explain that the other students on their team have one minute to try and guess the sentence and say it correctly, using the past continuous and past simple. If they cannot guess it, give the other team a chance to guess. You could do a couple of practise turns before starting the game properly. Each time a team guesses correctly, they win a point. The team with the most points at the end of the game is the winner.
This lesson focuses on the use of past continuous and past simple together to indicate one action being interrupted by another. It starts with a short story that the students have to reconstruct. Next they have to identify the two tenses in the story. Following this is the human timeline activity, where the students have to create timelines to represent sentences. Finally there is a game, in which the students have to act out and guess sentences that use the past continuous and past simple.
For detailed teacher notes, download the lesson.