Original In-class Activities 

Below are several in-class activities orginally designed and delivered by me. Feel free to use any full or part of an activity as you wish :-)

Play, Have Played, & Played Video Games 

Distinguishing the Simple Present, Present Perfect, & Simple Past in Formal English Writing


Click the drop-down arrow on the right to see a full description of the activity. You can also click here to open the activity plan in Google-doc format.

Age & Level:  Predominantly low-to-high B2, with some C1 students

Learning Objectives: 

By the end of the lesson, students will be able to:

 #1 recall verbs with an irregular simple past form and/or an irregular past participle.

#2 identify the verb tenses most commonly used in academic/formal English (i.e., simple present, simple past, and present perfect).

#3 apply their knowledge about verb tense usage in formal English writing to complete a brief expository article.

#4 engage in meaningful conversation regarding the uses of different verb tenses and how moving between the tenses can affect meaning

Class Time Needed for Activity: 20-25 min

Instructor Preparation Time: ~3-5 min for printing needed worksheets 

Materials Needed: computer, projector, white/blackboard, extra writing utensils for students who may need them, printed copies of Appendices B & E so that every two students have a copy of each (*or so that every student has their own, if the class size is smaller than 10 people), and printed copies of Appendix D so that every student has their own 

Activity Summary: At this point, students should have reviewed simple present/past verb conjugations and practiced distinguishing between the two (see Writing for Success, 2.3 Verb tense, Exercises 1, 2-3, and 4 : https://open.lib.umn.edu/writingforsuccess/chapter/2-3-verb-tense/). To elaborate on this topic in the context of academic writing, this activity highlights the tenses most commonly used in formal English - namely, simple present, simple past, and present perfect - and discusses how they are often used in essays/articles.


a. First, make sure that students are in pairs, ideally different from the ones they were in last time (**again, if there are so few students, you can either choose to have students work individually or as an entire group**). 

b. Once students have paired up, hand out copies of  the “Practice” text (Appendix E) so that every pair gets one. Tell students that they should work with their partner to try to conjugate the given verbs into the tenses that would make the most sense in context.

c. Be sure to consistently monitor students as they work (check the progress of each pair and see if they have any questions).

**You may choose to write some of the students’ responses on the board.** 

**Additionally, don’t be afraid to take time discussing a questionable answer and/or a blank that at least 2 students have filled in differently. If you don’t end up with time to review the entire text, that’s okay.**

Caveats and Possible Alterations: As this activity was originally designed for a class of ~14 students, some specific challenges may arise in a class of significantly more or fewer students. Several recommended alterations have been already listed intermittently throughout the above procedure for a class of few students - e.g., having students work individually first and then share their work with each other. For larger class sizes, there is the option of having students work in small groups rather than pairs; however, it is recommended that students are kept in pairs, if possible, to maximize discussion and equal participation among all students (obviously, if there is an odd number of students, there may be one group of three). Regardless of the class size, there is also the challenge of keeping all students engaged throughout the activity. Some methods to try to combat this include, as already mentioned, changing the students’ pairing for each new part of the activity, as well as having pairs share some of their answers with each other before sharing with the entire class. Another solution to the disengagement problem could be to simply start the activity with a brief pair and/or class discussion about video games, particularly as they relate to the students’ personal lives (e.g., what kinds of games they usually play, how much they probably play per day and/or week, etc.). One last potential problem that should be mentioned is the length of this lesson, which can be difficult to fit inside a hard time limit of 20-25 minutes - especially if the class is relatively large. In addition to the optional omissions mentioned in the procedure, the Kahoot warm-up could also be omitted and/or saved for an earlier point in the lesson; as mentioned previously, a brief discussion about video games could substitute as a shorter and easier warm-up. 


 References and Further Reading:

(N.d.). 2.3 Verb tense. In Writing for success [eBook edition]. University of Minnesota 

Libraries Publishing. Retrieved May 15, 2023, from https://open.lib.umn.edu/writingforsuccess/chapter/2-3-verb-tense/ 

https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/writingcenter/grammar/verbtenses  https://writingcenter.unc.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/346/2013/12/Verb-Tenses-in-Academic-Writing.pdf




Appendix A: Kahoot - Verb Tense Review 

Appendix B: Video Game Tense-Change Activity - Example Text UNANNOTATED  

Appendix C: Video Game Tense-Change Activity - Example Text ANNOTATED 

Appendix D: Verb Tenses in Academic Writing reference sheet (UNC Chapel Hill) 

Appendix E: Video Game Tense-Change Activity - Practice Text 

Appendix F: Video Game Tense-Change Activity - Practice Text KEY

“A New Beginning”

Tying Together Advanced Grammar Points in President Obama’s Famous Speech


Click the drop-down arrow on the right to see a full description of the activity. You can also click here to open the activity plan in Google-doc format. 

Age & Level:  Predominantly low-to-high B2, with some C1 students; mostly young (~ college-aged) adults 

Learning Objectives: By the end of the lesson, students will be able to:

#1 recall the three most commonly used verb tenses used in academic English writing (simple present, simple past, & present perfect) and how they are used.

#2 identify common relative pronouns in English (where, which, that, when, who) and in which contexts each is most appropriate.

#3 distinguish between the two main types of participial phrases (those using the present participle and those using the past participle).

#4 apply their knowledge of the above three grammar points (as well as paragraph structure, vocabulary, and other grammar points not explicitly mentioned) to complete a coherent, logical piece of writing. 

Class Time Needed for Activity: 20-25 min

Instructor Preparation Time: <5 min for printing needed worksheets

Materials Needed: computer or other electronic device that can be connected to a projector and that has a decent sound output; projector; printed-out copies of Appendices B & C (enough of each for half the students in the class); extra pens/pencils

Activity Summary: By this point in the course, students should have thoroughly reviewed upper-level English grammar points and writing techniques such as relative clauses, participial phrases, and verb tense changes. This activity is intended to serve as a comprehensive review of these three points by involving students in negotiation for meaning and collaborative critical thinking as they work to complete the outline of a famous speech.


a. The copies of the speech that I’ve given out are missing the verbs, relative pronouns, and participles. Your job is to enter the correct word for each blank using the information that you and your partner have been provided.

b. The versions of the speech that you and your partner have all have the same blanks; however, each blank only asks for half of the information - either the verb form of the verb itself (**the relative clause blanks are the same for everybody**). You will need to ask your partner for the other half in order to complete your sheet. 

c. Take a minute to independently read/skim the article and start choosing which options out of the information you’re given might make the most sense. Then, once you and your partner have finished reviewing, help each other fill in the blanks completely. 

Caveats & Possible Alterations: As with other activities originally designed for pair work, this activity can be slightly modified to accommodate for significantly smaller or larger class sizes - i.e., those smaller than 10 students or greater than 25 students. For smaller classes, an option could be to divide the class in half and give one half the first version of the incomplete speech and the other half the second version, with the instruction for each half of students to work together to fill in their version before pairing up with a student from the other half to share info and fully complete the speech. A similar option could work for larger classes, only such that each half of students would be divided into slightly smaller groups in order to still maximize participation among all students. Having students work on only one version of the speech at a time regardless of the class size might also be more effective in the sense that it could prevent confusion and/or frustration that might arise in the students from trying to combine so much information all at once. If the instructor chooses to stick with the original version, but runs into the problem of an odd number of students, one group of three should still work (the third person can still contribute to discussions between the other two and help them fill in the blanks). 

Given the politically charged tone of this speech, it is also important for the instructor to be mindful of their students’ political beliefs/backgrounds when choosing to deliver this activity. While generally, Obama received positive feedback from the international community during his presidency, there may be some who disagree with his policies regarding the U.S.’ interaction with the Muslim world and/or feel triggered/offended by the content of this particular speech. If the instructor suspects that there is at least one student who might be made uncomfortable by the speech, it’s recommended that they make sure to preface the activity with a brief statement highlighting the fact that while the main focus of the activity is on grammar in formal English, there are some political and ethnic references in the content, and if anyone would rather not participate in the activity because of this, that is completely fine. If it’s likely to be a sensitive topic for more than half the class, the instructor should probably choose a different activity. 

References and Further Reading: 




Appendix A: Complete Speech/Answer Key 

Appendix B: Incomplete Speech Version 1 

Appendix C: Incomplete Speech Version 2