ESL Activities and Games | Teaching past simple negative

Grammar | 60 - 90 minutes

This lesson plan includes a lead-in activity and several ideas for practical ESL activities and games. Feel free to use the ideas here as a stand-alone lesson plan or to supplement an existing one the past simple negative.

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Use of the board

The board work below shows one way to introduce the target language for this lesson. Start off by writing a basic affirmative past simple statement and eliciting its negative equivalent. After that, you can use the visualisation to step through some more examples. If you can, lean on the students' L1 and have them translate some simple statements.

EFL - ESL Lead-in activity for elementary | Past simple negative


Positive and negative

A writing activity where the students work individually to complete a table with past simple statements.

On the board, create a table with two columns that take up the full size of the board. In the table headings, put a plus sign on the left and a minus on the right. Have the students copy this table and then complete it with five affirmative sentences along with their negative equivalent. Encourage your students to make them as funny and creative as possible.

Night at the cinema

For this activity, the students have to make sentences from a table of information on the board. 

Start by drawing a table on the board with three columns and five rows. In the headings write Verb, John and Mary. Inform the students that John and Mary went to the cinema last night, but they had different experiences. In pairs, the students must write one sentence for each row based on the information in the table. Complete the table with the following info:

Go | picture of car | stick man walking
Be | with friends | alone
See | Batman | Frozen
Buy | picture of popcorn | picture of a drink
like | sad face | happy face

Each sentence should contain a positive and negative fragment. Do the first one on the board as a group, elicit as much as possible:

Mary didn't go to the cinema by car, she walked.

When finished, tell your students to compare their statements with a partner.

Holiday memories

For this speaking activity, students will interview each other about what they did on their last vacation.

Start by telling the students to make a list of five things they didn't do on their last holiday and create a negative past simple statement for each one. They will later use these statements to form a list of questions to interview a partner. For example:

The student has written: I didn't go hiking.
Asks their partner: Did you go hiking on your last holiday?

Demo this with another student first and inform the class that they should record notes on their partner's responses. They will have to report back for the next activity. Monitor the students throughout and correct any mistakes.

Interview report

A follow-on speaking activity where the students use their partner's answers to report what they did or didn't do on their last holiday. 

Go round the class and ask each student a few questions about what they learned from their partner during the previous exercise. They should be able to give you a past simple statement for each item on their list.


Snowball darts 

Students have to spell irregular past simple verbs to earn a throw of the snowball and a chance to win points for their team. 

Start by drawing a circular target on the whiteboard with several concentric layers of different score values. Crush a blank piece of paper into a snowball shape. On each turn, ask a student to spell an irregular verb in the past simple. If they get it correct, they can throw a snowball at the board. Keep the scores on the board and depending on the size of the class, play as an individual or team game. 

You may need a list of irregular verbs for this game. The students should also have a copy to study.

More A2 ESL lesson plans for elementary students

Our suggested next lesson is past simple: questions with be. If you've found these materials useful, be sure to check out our full list of elementary ESL lesson plans, A2 Lower and A2 Upper. For other levels, have a look at our complete selection of EFL - ESL lesson plans. If you use an iOS or Android device, try out the TEFL Handbook app. An ESL lesson planner for English teachers. It has a lot more content and gives you faster access to our ESL resources, making it easier to use in class.

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