Despite its name, students find it notoriously difficult to produce aspects of the Present Simple tense such as third person S, auxiliary verbs in questions and negatives (“Do you take…?”, “I don’t play…” etc.), difficult frequency like “once every two weeks”, and prepositions of time such as “in + November”. Many of the activities below therefore practise those things at the same time as this tense. There are also many activities for the different pronunciations of the S ending, and ones for the various meanings of this tense such as routines and statements of fact. In addition, there are a couple of activities which are suitable for higher level students such as one on explaining processes. Some of the activities are specifically designed for young learners, and most are suitable for kids, teenagers and adults.
The activities below are divided into ones with no or minimal resources, ones with easy-to-find resources like dice and flashcards, ones which need photocopiables (all already or soon available on the internet for free, mainly on Usingenglish.com), and ones using technology such as webquests. If an activity can work in more than one way, it is described in the first of those sections and then briefly mentioned in the other one(s).
In each section, the activities are arranged by how often I would use them in my own classes.
Present Simple tense activities with no or minimal resources
Students ask the teacher and then each other “Do you…?” questions and get one point for each positive answer but no points for “No, I don’t”. You may also want to allow questions with the Present Simple of “to be”. This is more fun if students work out that they can get points for asking really obvious questions like “Do you eat every day?” and “Do you sleep at night?” You can also get students to ask about their partners’ family members etc. to bring in 3rd person S.
Make Me Say No I Don’t below is a variation on this game.
2. Make me say “No, I don’t”
Students ask “Do you…?” questions and get one point for “No, I don’t” answers but no points for “Yes, I do” answers, plus maybe the same for “Are you + noun/ adjective?” Crazy questions like “Do you have an elephant?” and “Do you eat spiders for breakfast” are allowed (and in fact the main attraction of this game). The same game can be played with third person S by letting them ask about friends, neighbours, etc. too.
This is a variation on Make Me Say Yes I Do above.
3. I do more
Students ask each other questions to find things that they do more often or earlier than their partner with “How often…?” and “When…?” questions, with one point for each thing that they can find. For example, if one person answers “Five o’clock” to “When do you get up?” or “Every day” to “How often do you go swimming?”, they will probably get the point. The person in each group who finds more things that they do more often and/ or earlier wins. They can also do the game based on their family, e.g. comparing dads, to include 3rd person S.
4. Present Simple things in common
Students ask Present Simple questions to find things that are true for both/ all the people in their group such as “What’s your favourite fruit?” and “Do you watch TV every day?”, counting the things in common that they find. The team who have the most (maybe ten or eleven) things in common report back to the class with sentences like “We (both) eat toast for breakfast”, with the other groups allowed to object to grammar mistakes, things that aren’t actually true, two statements which are basically the same, or the group not reaching the number of statements that they claimed. If another team successfully objects, the same whole class feedback continues in the order of how many things in common each group claims that they found, e.g. with a group who found nine things next. This continues until one group manages to get through their list of things in common without other teams successfully objecting, in which case they win the game.
An alternate class feedback stage is for groups to get one point for each thing that they have in common but no other groups share.
Similar games can be played with students finding things that are different between them (much easier) or filling in a group of comparing and contrasting sentence stems like “Two of us…”, “None of us…”, “Only one of us…” and “One person …er than the others”.
5. I don’t know if he does
Students try to ask Present Simple questions that the person answering doesn’t know the answer to, to get the answer “I don’t know”. These can be general questions like “How often do people in this city take a bus?” and “Does President Obama like cheese?”, but the game works best if the questioners have to think of more personal questions that the person answering doesn’t know the answer to. For example, you can limit the questions to ones about the person answering, their classmates and/ or their family like “How many books do you have?”, “How many cups of coffee does your dad drink every day?”, “What colour bicycle does your grandmother have?” and “Does Jorge live near here?”
As a variation on this, you could allow students to lie about any answers they don’t know, e.g. “I have 124 books”. Perhaps after asking for more details, students should accuse their partners every time they think an answer isn’t true (because they in fact don’t know).
6. Only I do mingling game
Each student tries to think of a question to which everyone else’s answer will be “No, I don’t” but to which they themselves can answer “Yes, I do”, e.g. “Do you live with your uncle?” or “Do you have 100 Smurfs?” Everyone stands up and all the students go around asking their question until they have got a “No, I don’t” from everyone else in the class (in which case they can try to do the same thing with another question or sit down and feel smug) or someone else says “Yes, I do” (in which case they should think of another question and start again).
When at least three or four things that are only true about one person seem to have been found, sit everyone down and ask them to share those things. The other students can object that in fact their answer would be “Yes, I do” (perhaps because they were missed out while mingling or misunderstood the question), or ask more questions about that fascinatingly unique habit.
7. Adverbs of frequency ladder game
Draw a ladder on the board with a frequency expression on each rung in order of frequency, e.g. “never”, “almost never” etc. or “once every two years”, “once a year” etc. To climb to the top of the ladder, students must ask questions to get those answers in exactly the order given. If they get a different answer they fall to the bottom of the ladder and have to start again. However, they can ask the same questions when they try again if they can remember them. To make the game slightly easier, you can have the rule that if a student gets the answer of the rung that they are already on, it means that they don’t fall down but just can’t go up to the next rung yet.
Students can then draw their own ladders in their notebooks and play the same game in groups.
8. Present Simple discuss and agree
Students try to make Present Simple statements that everyone in their group agrees with, e.g. “Teenagers spend too much time texting” or “Old people complain too much”. They can be given language that they must use and/ or the topics that they must discuss, on the board or as worksheets.
As well as trying to make statements of fact like those examples, students can try to agree on good routines, e.g. for a perfect language learner, the perfect spouse, the perfect teacher, the perfect school timetable, or the perfect year (maybe inventing new festivals that happen during it). They can then compare with another group, read out their answers until the other groups guess what kind of perfect person they are describing, or vote on other teams’ ideas to choose the best one.
Students can also decide on the maximum possible frequency of bad habits before someone gets fired, gets thrown out of school, gets punished in English class, etc.
9. Present Simple bluff
One student makes a true or false statement about their routines or those of people they know such as family members and people in their neighbourhood. Perhaps after answering questions like “How often…?” and “Why do/ does…?”, the other people guess if the statement was true or not. They can continue to lie (hopefully convincingly) during the questioning stage.
Present Simple Q&A bluff below is a variation on this game.
10. Present Simple Q&A bluff
Students reply to Present Simple questions with a mix of true and untrue answers, perhaps in a proportion decided by the teacher such as three true answers and two false ones. After asking for more details if they like (during which time the person should continue telling the truth or lying depending on which answer they are being asked about), the other students in their group try to guess which answers weren’t true.
This is a variation on Present Simple Bluff above.
11. You say and I draw
Draw a stick man and stick woman on the board or a large piece of paper. Students say sentences like “She has long hair”, “He is tall”, “They are angry” and “They like lollipops” and the teacher draws those things on top of the stick figures. Students will probably need a list of Present Simple verbs which can be easily drawn such as “want” (with a thought bubble) and “lives in” to help them come up with ideas. This game can be made more fun by giving students a dice to choose if they should start the next sentence with “he”, “she” or “they”, by number (e.g. numbers 1 and 2 for “he”), or with those words stuck on the sides of the dice. After some practice, students can play the same game in groups of two or three with one person drawing and the others saying what should be drawn.
A more difficult but more amusing version is adding “I”, “you” and “we”. Start with a stick man of the teacher, a student from this class (drawn with indeterminate gender), another boy, and another girl. Students can decide which one or two of all those figures will be drawn on to create amusing pictures with sentences like “You live in an igloo” (about the teacher), “I have a gun” (about the figure which represents a student in that class) and “We want Pokemon” (drawn in a thought bubble above the student’s and teacher’s heads). This can then be done with pieces of A3 paper and pencils or colouring pencils in pairs or threes.
You can also add the routines meaning of Present Simple by drawing a line representing 24 hours across the board and drawing things along it for each of the stick men to show what they do every day.
Students can also be asked to write the sentences rather than just saying them, with only sentences which are (reasonably) accurate being included in the picture. You can also give them words which they should pick to make their sentences as a list of words on the board, a worksheet, or a pack of cards.
12. On in at brainstorming races
Students brainstorm as many expressions as they can onto the board or a piece of paper divided into three columns with “on”, “in” and “at” at the top of them, trying to write lots of examples that no other groups will think of such as “at seven minutes past seven in the morning”. When time is up, they get one point for each expression which is in the right place and no other group wrote down.
To play the game on the whiteboard or blackboard rather than on paper, put the students in front of the board in three lines, with each line being one team as well as one of those three columns. The person at the front of each line writes just one expression, then passes the pen to the next person in the line and goes to the back. The person at the front can ask for ideas from other people behind them in their group, but can’t pass the pen until they’ve written something.
13. Routines questionnaires
Students write questionnaires to find out how ecologically friendly, healthy, hardworking, stressed, kind, careful with money, tidy etc. their classmates are, with questions like “How often do you throw rubbish on the floor?” and “Do you have a bin in your bedroom?” They can also write (secret) scoring schemes to find out which of the people who answer the questionnaire have the best and worst results, passing their finished questionnaires back to the teams who wrote them to be “marked”. To help set the activity up, you could give them a similar questionnaire to answer, perhaps also getting them to guess the topic and/ or scoring system of the questionnaire. You could also give them some ideas for question stems and words to use.
14. How many people do?
Students guess how many people in the room do certain things with sentences such as “I think four people drink tea with milk”. They then make a question to check their answers (“How many people here drink tea with milk?” or “Put up your hand if you…”), with one point for each statement that is factually and grammatically correct. A good way to set this up is to get the teams to write down one statement for each number of people in the class, e.g. starting at “One person lives near here” and going up one by one until they get to “Fourteen people read a newspaper every week”.
15. Present Simple presentations
Although you can’t give a business or academic presentation just with Present Simple, it is perfectly possible to design extended speaking tasks (similar to IELTS Speaking Part Two or those in the Inside Out textbooks) with just this tense. Students can speak for one or two minutes about their morning routines, work routines, weekly routines, etc. It’s probably best to give students at least one minute to think about what they are going to say, perhaps making notes (but not full sentences) to help them while they are speaking.
The people listening to them also need a task. This could be to give the person who speaks advice on how they could improve their routine, to comment on similarities and differences with their own routines, to ask questions to get more details, or even to spot lies if you make it into a bluffing game. If students are given more subjective topics like “Why your routine is efficient”, students can also vote on who describes the best (e.g. the most efficient) one.
Possible topics and tasks for people listening can be given on a worksheet, written on the board, or just explained orally.
16. Guess when the routine action happens
One student asks a question that the people answering don’t know the answer to but can make some kind of guess about like “When do I brush my teeth?” or “When does my father get home?” Another student should answer in a full sentence like “You wash your face at 6:20”. If their guess is wrong, they follow hints like “No, I wash my face (much/ a little) earlier/ later”, until they get exactly the right time.
As well as using personal information like this, the game can also be played with information that the students asking the questions have been given on worksheets such as routines of famous people, people in particular countries, averages of people of various ages in their country, or people with particular jobs.
The same game can also be played with days of the week or year with hints like “British people have fireworks. They wear coats and hats. They drink hot drinks” for “On the fifth of November”, with the same kinds of earlier/ later hints if they get the day wrong.
17. Present Simple chicken
One student chooses an expression from the board or a worksheet and attempts to make true statements using it, e.g. “You brush your teeth twice a day”, “You drink coffee twice a day” and “You get the bus twice a day” for “twice a day”, or “You live in Tokyo”, “You live with your parents” and “You live in a house” for “live”. They get one point for each correct sentence but lose all their points for that round if they make a mistake, meaning they have to choose carefully when to give up and keep their points (like “sticking” in blackjack). Once anyone has attempted to use a word or expression, it can’t be used by anyone else.
You can also play a simpler version of this game where they don’t lose points but simply have to stop when they make a mistake.
18. Routines cultural differences bluff
If the students come from different places to each other and/ or the teacher, they can write a mix of true and false sentences about meals, sleeping habits etc. in those places. The false sentences can be completely made up, can be about different countries from that being described (e.g. “German people often have a siesta”), or just have different frequency expressions and/ or times to the real information (e.g. “British people almost never drink coffee”). Perhaps after asking questions to get more details, students guess which are true and which aren’t.
19. All of your time
Students ask questions to fill in a circle that represents their partner’s day (e.g. every Saturday) or week with how long they spend doing particular things, with questions like “What time do you start…?” and “How long do you (spend)…?” They continue until they fill up the whole 24 or 168 hours with labelled segments representing routine actions, then continue a little more to make sure they haven’t overestimated the time of any of those actions or missed any actions out. Other groups can then look at their finished circles and try to spot things which are surprising, are bad routines, are unlikely to be true and/ or should probably have been included.
Students will need a very big piece of paper to do this, at least A3. However, it’s also possible to do in their notebooks just by writing down amounts of time and adding up once in a while to see how close to 24 hours or 168 hours they are getting.
20. Present Simple chain statements
Students sit in a circle. The first student says something true about themselves such as “I jog three times a week”, perhaps using one of the phrases written on the board. The next person repeats that person’s statement in the second person, e.g. “You jog three times a week”, then adds their own true statement such as “I have four sisters”. The next person does the same, but this time adding third person for all but the last person to speak, e.g. “You have four sisters. She jogs three times a week. I fight with my brother.” The previous person to speak should correct them if they are wrong (because they are the one being addressed). The game continues until someone can’t remember what previous people have said, mixes up the order, or can’t think of anything new to say. Students can then work in twos or threes to try to remember and write down all the sentences, this time with names.
Present Simple Chain Questions below is a variation on this game.
21. Present Simple chain questions
Students sit in a circle. The first person asks a Present Simple question like “Where do you live?” or “What kind of dessert do you like?” to the person on their left. That person answers the question, then asks that same question plus one more to the person on their left, with both questions being answered in turn. That continues with the same questions plus one more each time, round and round the circle until one person forgets the questions or their order, or somebody can’t come up with any new Present Simple questions.
Students can be helped to remember the questions by being given a set of pencils of different colours to pass as they ask each question.
This is a variation on Present Simple Chain Statements above.
22. Guess the person from the routines
One person gives hints like “This person gets up at 4:30 in the morning”, “This person often wears boots” and “This person likes animals” one by one until the people listening guess who is being spoken about (a farmer in this case). They can describe people they know (grandfather etc.), people with particular jobs, or particular nationalities. Classes with more imagination can also do it with a page or magazine full of pictures of people, using their imaginations to come up with sentences like “This person lives in California” and “This person is married” until someone guesses which picture they are speaking about. Students will probably need some help such as suggestions for verbs they can use.
23. Guess the routine action
One student picks an action and gives clues like “I do it at 7:15 on Mondays”, “My mother does it at 6 o’clock every day”, “I do it at 10 o’clock on Sundays” and “You do it every day” until their partner guesses what the action is (“get up” in this example). Lower level classes will need example sentences to help them make suitable clues.
24. Guess what from what you do
Show students a list of things that people use in different ways, e.g. paper (draw on it, write on it, wrap fish and chips in it, etc.) and water (spit it out, use it for cooking, freeze it, etc.) One student makes general or specific statements about what people do with the thing they have chosen (e.g. “My cat doesn’t like it” and “People pay for it every month” for water) until their partner guesses what they are talking about.
The suggested objects can be written on the board or given on a worksheet, or more confident classes can come up with their own ideas.
25. Guess when it happens
One student chooses a time, day, date, month, season etc. and gives true sentences about what people do at that time (e.g. “My family eat chicken” and “Americans eat turkey”) until their partner guesses what time they are speaking about (“on Xmas Day” for this example). They can describe the habits of people they know, people in their country, people in other countries, or particular groups of people like old people. They’ll probably need a list of possible times to talk about, perhaps with prepositions included if you want to practise that.
26. Strange Present Simple questions
Ask students to imagine they are having a conversation with a stranger or acquaintance and to use “(Wh) do you…?” questions to make conversation. They get one point for each good conversational question they can come up with, but their partner can object if they think the question isn’t suitable in some way, e.g. if they ask a very personal question like “How often do you go to hospital?” or one which is impossible to answer like “How many photos are on your computer?” They can then brainstorm suitable, unsuitable and possibly suitable questions for this kind of situation into three columns, possibly including other tenses at this stage if you are ready to move onto new grammar.
The game Present Simple Taboo Questions in the photocopiable section below is a variation on this.
27. The whole routine ladder game
Students try to guess the whole of a particular routine of someone all the way through without missing any stages, e.g. “First you wake up”, “Then you turn off your alarm clock”, “After that, you kick off the sheets”, etc. If they mess up the order or miss a stage, they have to go right back to the beginning and try again. This continues until they successfully reach a certain number of steps that you told them, e.g. ten or fifteen. To help them picture the game more clearly, you can draw a ladder with that many steps, explaining that if you slip on a ladder, you always fall back down to the bottom and have to start again.
If you give them linking language like “Secondly”, this game works well as fun practice for more technical descriptions of processes such as some IELTS Academic Writing Part One tasks and writing for Technical English students. As well as this personal routines version, this game also works well using other processes that they are all familiar with, e.g. how to programme a DVD player to record something.
28. I don’t want to answer that
Students use Present Simple and maybe a list of topics written on the board or a worksheet to try to make their partner say something meaning “I’m sorry, that’s too personal”/ “I’m sorry, I’d rather not answer that” with questions like “Do you spit in the street?” and “Do you think (name of student) is beautiful?”, with one point for each time their partner won’t answer the question.
29. Present Simple stations
Students indicate if they think the time expression they hear should take “at”, “in” or “on” by running to the part of the room with that written on it, e.g. running and touching the right-hand wall when they hear “three o’clock in the morning”, running and touching the left-hand wall when they hear “my birthday” and standing in the middle of the room when they hear “winter”. Students who are last to arrive at the right place or who move away from the place where they are even when the preposition should be the same as the last one are eliminated. The last person left is the winner.
The same game can be played to test the pronunciation of third person S. Students run and touch one of two walls depending on whether they think the word that the hear has or should have the pronunciation /iz/ and therefore an extra syllable or just /s/ or /z/ and therefore the same number of syllables as the plain form. You can also do it with three places for the three pronunciations, but the /s/ and /z/ distinction is very difficult to hear and not very important.
Instead of running and touching, students can also throw things or just point. Raise the Present Simple below is like a variation on this game.
30. Raise the Present Simple
Students listen to time expressions like “Saturday evening”, “midday” and “the evening” and indicate if they think the appropriate preposition is “at”, “in” or “on” by raising their right hand for “at”, raising their left hand for “on” and standing up (and therefore raising their head) for “in”. Students could also be given a card to hold in each hand and maybe a sticker, headband or paper hat on their head, with the prepositions written on them to help students remember which action is which preposition.
The same game can be used to practise the pronunciation of “s” and “es” with “he”, “she” and “it”. Students can indicate which of the three sounds they hear or are shown, or which sound they think should go with the plain form that they hear or are shown. However, it is more useful and manageable to just use their two hands – one for the added syllable of the /iz/ pronunciation of “es” in “passes” etc. and the other for both /s/ and /z/ in “gets”, “cleans” etc.
This is similar to Present Simple Stations above.
31. Good boy/ good boy boasting
Students take turns boasting to show how hardworking, lucky, popular, helpful, environmentally friendly etc. they are with sentences like “I get up at 5 o’clock every morning” until one person gives up or repeats the same thing as their partner said. They should be encouraged to over-exaggerate or even lie! It’s probably best to have a few different subjects available for them to boast about, with students boasting about one topic until someone wins, then switching to another and doing the same.
32. Present Simple tennis
The server starts with the first person version of a verb, e.g. “I like”, then the “ball” goes back and forth as the players work their way through the other versions of the verb which you are practising (“You like”, “He likes”, “She likes”, etc.) If they reach the end of that verb or there is a mistake and someone has to serve again, the same thing happens with another verb. You will need to decide how strict you are going to be about pronunciation of the third person forms, perhaps insisting on an extra syllable in verbs like “searches” and “watches” and no extra syllable in ones like “needs” and “sends”.
Younger students can actually do this with a beach ball, holding it or bouncing it up and down while they are thinking. However, the number of times the ball is dropped makes it a bit of a distraction from the language, so it can be better to slide things such as toy car across the table.
33. What do I do? bluffing game
This is based on the old TV show “What’s My Line?” Students work in pairs or threes to write find out some things that they have in common and some things which are only true about one of them. They write some of these down, leaving out the subjects (i.e. not including names, “I”, etc) as in “works on Sundays”.
They exchange what they have written with another group, then someone from that groups turns one of those statements into a question, e.g. “What time do you go to bed?” Everyone in the other group should answer with the information that they wrote, i.e. the same answer as each other. After asking for more details (e.g. “Why do you go to bed so early?”), the questioners guess who the info is true about, i.e. guess who (if anyone) is lying.
34. Good and bad routines Q&A
Students ask each other questions like “Do you watch TV when you do your homework?” to find out who is a better student, busier, more of a TV addict, etc.
35. Present Simple stand in line
Students are split into two or more teams with at least five people in each team. The teacher asks them a question and they must ask each other the same question (in English) to stand in order by what their answers are, e.g. the person who gets up earliest at one end of their line and the person who gets up latest at the other end, or the person who does something most often at one end of the line and the person who does the same thing least often at the other end.
36. Routines negotiations
Ask students to imagine that they will need to have exactly the same routine for a while, for example because they will share a room while studying abroad together. They should describe their routines to each other and try to find compromises when they are different from each other, e.g. agreeing that their bedtime will be 22:30 if one of them likes going to bed early and the other usually stays up late.
Present Simple activities with easy-to-find resources
37. Around the clock
Get or make twelve flashcards of normal daily routines like “brush your hair”, with words and/ or pictures. You need either one set per group of two to four students or just one big set for the class. Such pictures are easy to make yourself from ClipArt in Word.
Arrange the 12 cards in the shape of a circle on the floor, board or table, to represent a clock. Turn the cards face down one by one, perhaps while drilling the names of the actions or full sentences like “I go swimming at one o’clock”. The students and teacher then test each other on their memory of where the cards are with questions like “When do I/ you (go to school)?” and “What do I/ you do at (ten o’clock)?”, insisting on full sentences in the answers to make sure the grammar in practised. The game can also easily be played with “He/ She…” with third person S.
Especially if all the actions usually happen close to each other (e.g. they are all morning routine actions), you can also play with the position of the card representing the big hand (and hence minutes), therefore practising more challenging times like “ten past seven” and “twenty to eight”.
38. Personalised Present Simple dice game
Cover the sides of a dice with stickers saying “on”, “at” and “in”, or assign two of the numbers to each of those prepositions of time, e.g. writing “One and two = at” on the board. One student throws the dice and tries to make a true statement about someone in their group using Present Simple and that preposition, e.g. “You have a shower in the morning” for “in” or “You watch TV at 5 o’clock” for “at”. If the sentence is true and the preposition use is grammatically correct, they get one point. The teacher doesn’t need to check every sentence, but students should call the teacher over to check any sentences that they aren’t sure about the grammar of.
The same thing is possible with the three pronunciations of third person S endings, e.g. “One and two = /iz/”. The third person S sentences can be about their classmates (“Jose plays golf”) or, perhaps more naturally, people that their classmates know (“Your father lives with you”).
39. Present Simple magazine search
Give students magazines, books or catalogues with lots of colour photos of people doing things, e.g. shopping catalogues or young learner books about life in different countries. Different students can have different magazines etc. from each other if you don’t have enough copies for them all to have the same thing. Students search for pictures that they can make true sentences about their own and/ or their partners’ routines with, e.g. “I never go surfing” and “You mow the grass in your garden in the summer” with pictures of those two actions. They get one point for each new sentence that is true, as long as it uses some language which hasn’t been used before.
Students can then photocopy or cut out the pictures and write down the same sentences next to them to make posters or scrapbooks about the class’s routines, perhaps being told to make each sentence about different people or a different number of people.
40. Present Simple projects
Students make posters with pictures and Present Simple descriptions of what people do or should do such as “Spanish people sometimes have a nap after lunch” or “Good students keep their folders tidy”. The Present Simple for facts ones could be about different cultures, animals, what English speakers do and say in particular situations, or made-up aliens or monster. The recommendation ones could be illustrating good or bad habits or routines, maybe for specific aspects of people’s lifestyles like studying, working, being healthy, being green, being kind, or being happy.
Especially with older classes such as teenagers, students may prefer to do this on computers, as webpages or printable posters.
Photocopiables for classroom practice of Present Simple
41. Present Simple sentence completion guessing game
Give students a worksheet with gapped sentences that everyone can fill most of to make personal statements like “I __________________________ almost every day”, “I ______________________ but I don’t like it”, “I ____________________ on Sunday mornings” and “I _______________________ with my dad”. Students fill in at least half of the sentences on their own, then read out just the part they have written (not the part that was originally printed on the worksheet) for the people listening to guess the whole sentence. For example, if one student reads out “cook pancakes”, the other people have to guess the whole sentence is “I cook pancakes on Sunday mornings”.
42. Present Simple sentence completion bluff
Students are given gapped sentences that everyone in the class will be able to fill most of to make personal sentences, e.g. “I ___________________ in bed” and “My mother isn’t happy because I __________________________”. Students fill in at least half of the sentences with a mix of true and false information. One student reads out one of their sentences (e.g. “I eat breakfast in bed”) and the people listening ask questions (e.g. “How often do you eat breakfast in bed?” and “What do you eat in bed?”), then guess if the original sentence was true or false.
43. Present Simple Ask and Tell
Make a pack of cards with words and expressions which could be made into (very) personal questions with the Present Simple, e.g. “nose” for “Do you like your nose?” or “Do you pick your nose?”, and “angry” for “How often do you get angry?” or “Why does your mother get angry with you?” One student takes a card and can make any question that they like. However, they might want to be careful with the questions that they ask because they may have to answer that question themselves, depending on the toss of a coin. If the person who made the question calls heads or tails correctly, they can choose who will answer the question. However, if it falls on the opposite side of the coin, they must answer their question themselves.
44. Present Simple Answer me
Students are dealt four or five cards each, each of which has a short answer like “Yes, I do” and “I walk”. They must ask each other questions to get exactly those answers to be able to discard the cards. The person with fewest cards left at the end of the game is the winner. The cards could be actions (asking “What do you do at 6:45?” to get the answer “I wake up” on the card), adverbs of frequency (“How often do you swim?” to get “Sometimes”), other frequency expressions (“Once every three months” etc.), times (“At half past seven”, “On Sundays”, “On New Year’s day”, etc.), or a mix of those categories.
Students could also easily make their own cards on scrap bits of paper or just as lists in their notebooks, keeping the ones that they made themselves, or putting all the cards together and dealing them out.
45. Present Simple personalised board game
Students work their way round a board game by making true sentences based on what is written on the square that their counter is on, e.g. “Your partner’s morning routines”, “Your partner’s grooming habits”, “Things your partner never does”, “Things your partner does more often than you” and “Your partner’s parents”. You can also include squares which are more like opinions, e.g. “Habits that your partner agrees are annoying” and “Green habits which your partner thinks are important”. The person whose go it is continues making statements of that kind until their partner says that something isn’t true, then they move one square for each correct sentence they made (meaning that a dice etc. is not needed to move in this board game).
46. Present Simple taboo questions
Students rank Present Simple questions like “How much money do you have in the bank?” and “How often do you have a shower?” by how taboo they are from 1 point (normal question even to strangers, maybe good for starting conversations) to 5 points (completely taboo). They then compare with other groups and/ or the teacher’s judgement of how taboo those things are in other countries. They can then try to write similar questions of each level from 1 to 5 using Present Simple and the topics given (food, bad habits, etc.)
With either or both sets of questions (their own and the one prepared by the teacher), they can also play a fun speaking challenge game. One person chooses how many points they want to go for, and are asked a question which they gave that many points to, e.g. if they say “Four points”, they are asked a difficult but not totally taboo question. They then get that many points, unless they can’t or don’t want to answer that question.
47. Present Simple pelmanism
Prepare a set of cards with a mix of expressions which take “on” (“Monday”, “12 January”, “Xmas day”, etc.), “at” (“12 o’clock”, “half past seven”, “Xmas”, etc.) and “in” (“the morning”, “spring”, “March”, etc.). Students spread the pack of cards face down across the table and then take turns trying to find pairs of expressions which take the same preposition, e.g. “Tuesday morning” and “Thursday 2 March” because they both take “on”. If the two cards match, they can keep them. If not, they must place them face down in the exact same places and play passes to the next person.
The same cards can be used to play the game Present Simple Snap below.
48. Present Simple Snap
This is based on the lively and popular children’s card game Snap.
Prepare a set of at least 30 cards with more or less equal numbers of expressions which take each of the prepositions which you are practising, e.g. “Tuesday morning” for “on”, “a quarter past ten” for “at” and “summer” for “in”. Give one pack of cards to each group of two or three students. They should deal them out but not look at the cards that they have received. Two cards are put face up on the table and the players take turns putting cards face up on top of those two piles. If at any time the two cards which are visible on the top of the piles take the same preposition, e.g. “Thursday” and “12 March” (which should both take “on”), the students should race to shout out “Snap!” (or a more useful phrase like “The same!”) The first person to shout out correctly gets all the cards that have been placed down so far in the game, and the person with most cards at the end of the game wins.
If anyone shouts out when the two cards which are top of the packs don’t match, they must “pay” two cards to the other players in their group as punishment.
This game can be played with exactly the same cards as Present Simple Pelmanism above.
49. Present Simple interview roleplays
Students are told to imagine that they must select someone such as a teacher, an employee, a politician, a housemate or a host mother/ host father. The people who they are going to interview are given roleplay cards which explain a problem in the Present Simple tense, e.g. “You sleep 18 hours every day” or “You never brush your teeth”. The interviewers ask questions using the Present Simple tense, trying to find out what the problem is. The interviewees can’t lie about those problems, but they can try to avoid the question. Their answers on other topics can be real or made up as they like. After the interviews, students get points for finding out the problems or must decide which of the people they will choose.
You can also play the game with a mix of good and bad things on the roleplay cards, and/ or with each interviewee having more than one roleplay card.
50. Present Simple chain stories/ consequences
This is based on the fun traditional drawing and writing games of the same name. Prepare a worksheet with at least 8 to 10 sentence stems to make a description of someone’s daily routine like “___________ very early in the morning” and “______________________ at noon”. Put students in a circle or circles. Give each student a copy of the worksheet. Each person fills in the gap in the first line of the routines story on their own, folds the paper so that the next person can’t see what they have written, and passes it to the person on their left. This continues around (and around) the circle(s), folding each time so that the next person can’t see anything that has been written so far. When they get to the end, they pass one more time and the person who receives it opens the story out, reads it, and shares with the class how much or little sense it makes and maybe some examples of silly combinations of routines.
Students could then go on to make similar chain stories sheets with different sentence stems (for example to cover the rest of the day if your worksheet was about morning routines) for different groups to do the same activity with.
51. Present Simple information gaps
Students are given Student A and Student B worksheets describing routines with some differences between them and must ask each other questions to find what things are not the same. For example, if they are given school timetables with three differences in day, time or subject they can ask “What do you do at… on…?”, “How often do you…?” and “When do you…?” until they find the differences.
The worksheet prompts can be timetables, lists or complete texts, and can perhaps include authentic texts from Sunday magazines etc. in which real people explain their routines. They can also be asked to look for similarities rather than differences, or to find particular information, e.g. the language lessons in their partner’s timetable. This last version can also be set up as Timetable Battleships, based on the old game in which students attempt to bomb the ships on each other’s paper without knowing where they are. As with the original game, this game works best if there is some kind of restriction about where the things that they are searching for can go, e.g. having them in blocks of two or three (in one day or at the same times on different days).
Students are given worksheets with pictures, numbers, symbols and/ or words showing the lives of at least five people who have most things in common but a few unique features, e.g. all but one person pictured live in flats and only two of the people have pets. A student secretly chooses one of the people on the sheet and the other students ask Yes/ No questions such as “Does this person drink wine?” and “Is this person fat?” until someone correctly guesses which person it is.
Students with more imagination can also do the same game with a page or magazine full of photos of photos, answering “Does she have a car?”, “Is he intelligent?” etc. from their imaginations until someone guesses which picture they chose.
As an extension, students can also make their own versions of the Guess Who worksheet based on the people in their group, asking each other questions to find out who has brothers and sisters, who rides a scooter, etc., and putting that down as words, numbers, symbols and/ or pictures, but without names. Groups swap the Guess Who worksheets that they made and ask Yes/ No questions until they can write the names next to each person. As with the original worksheets, students should try to make sure most things that they write down are things that they have in common.
53. Present Simple matchmakers
One student is given a worksheet with at least three things described on it, e.g. three sports, three jobs, three hobbies, three countries that they could live in, or three kinds of volunteering. The person with the worksheet must ask the other student(s) questions to find out which of those things they would probably prefer. After choosing, the other people look at the worksheet and tell them if they think that is really the best choice for them.
To stop them just directly asking “Would you like to be/ have…?” and so finishing in twenty seconds, you have to make sure that the topics and descriptions are closely tied to routines, and probably limit the choices to things that they know little or nothing about like “forester” or “bird watching”. You might also want to highlight certain words that they can’t include in their questions.
Students could also do the same thing with a laptop in front of them to find suitable options online as they ask the questions, e.g. searching descriptions of jobs in Wikipedia or job sites.
Note that this activity naturally often brings up the verb “can”, so you could use it as a link between Present Simple and that common verb which is often taught in the same level of classes.
Technology-based Present Simple classroom activities
54. Many routines webquest
Students have ten minutes to find Present Simple sentences online which show differences between other places and their own culture, e.g. “In Mongolia many people live in tents”. They get one point for each thing that no one else in the class also writes down. The sentences must be directly quoted from the websites and already in the Present Simple tense.
The same thing can also be done with students searching for:
Habits of a particular animal
Two animals which have a lot of things in common
Routines of a celebrity, perhaps to find the most socially conscious or party-loving one
Actions of charities, perhaps to find the most important one
They could also add some made-up versions to use in a bluffing game, reading out a mix of true and false routines in other places etc. for the other groups to guess which is which.
55. Present Simple video tasks
Find a movie, animation or TV programme which shows regular routines of a person, animal, machine, etc., e.g. the eating and living habits of mice, the routines of a postman in the Hebrides islands, the life of a bouncer, or the “life” of a steam train. Students write as many sentences about that person’s or thing’s lives as they can before watching, then get five points for each of those sentences that turn out to be true plus two points for any new sentences they can write about those routines while watching (plus maybe bonus points if no one else writes the same correct sentences).
This can also be done for situations which are unlike our own world such as science fiction or fantasy.
56. Only one person does it
Students try to make sentences that make sense but have no or only one result on Google or Google Images, e.g. “He sleeps under a chair”, “She gets up at twelve minutes past three” or “I have 23 badges”.
Students can also use technology for the activities Present Simple Matchmakers and Guess the Person from the Routines above.