We started a new coursebook in class today. As any teacher ever in the history of language teaching knows, a new book means starting with a revision of every verb tense that the poor buggers have been exposed to up to that point in whichever coursebook series you happen to be using. And so it unfolded… the simple present, present continuous, simple past, past continuous, present perfect, past perfect and present perfect continuous… have I missed any out?
I thought that, despite my impending nausea at the sheer volume of grammar I’d have to go through during today’s four hours of class, it would be useful to have an idea of how comfortable they are with verb grammar. The question was how to make all of this kind of fun at the same time. With this in mind, here are a few activities I’ve found online that helped me shake things up, inject a bit of fun or just simply supply a change of focus to the lessons I did today.
Based on the classic ‘Jeopardy’ format, you can use this game to practice different verb tenses (present simple tense, present progressive, past simple, past progressive, present perfect, future tenses and more). You can’t adapt the questions, but you can set it up in a matter of seconds, including options to set the number of teams in the game and the ability to give each team a unique, self-chosen name.
When to use: You can use this at any point in class. I used it when they were clearly starting to suffer from some intense board work. I makes for a good last-ten/fifteen-minutes-of-the-day-type activity.
The BBC’s Logging tenses game doesn’t seem to exist any more, although it does still lead you to some basic yet useful online verb tense activities. All of the activities are very simple ‘click on the right box’ games. Nevertheless, there are a nice variety of activities for varying levels of learner knowledge: choose the verb in the sentence; choose the right verb form; re-write these sentences.
When to use: You can use these for a quick change of pace during lessons. The variation in difficulty means you should choose the game that best suits the level of your learners.
Utilizing the Battleship game layout, this requires you to choose the correct verb tense to complete each sentence. You get asked a multiple choice question when you ‘land’ a missile on your Enemy’s ships. If you answer incorrectly, you can always try again on your next turn. As with the real game, a lot depends on luck, but as you’re playing against ‘the computer’ it is still quite fun.
When to use: The element of luck means that it’s hard to judge exactly how long this game will take. Given that the grid is 12 by 12, it could drag out for a while.
The guiding principles of using games like these
Don’t use these games to present the grammar, there’s simply too much there for you to be able to deal with all the questions and frustration that such an approach would lead to. Instead, use these activities for checking understanding, or to inject a bit of excitement into your lessons, or to round off grammar-heavy classes with a bit of fun, or just to lighten the atmosphere when things get a bit dull.
While such games are basically intended for fun, be sure to reinforce that idea that they serve a positive, meaningful learning objective, i.e. you are getting to learners to access and recall their knowledge of these verb tenses in a time-sensitive, semi-urgent environment.