ESL Activities and Games | Teaching the present perfect

Grammar | 60 - 90 minutes

A collection of activities and games that can be used to teach elementary level students how to use the present perfect. This lesson plan includes suggested board work, several activities, a game and a collection of specially selected ESL resources from around the web.

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Use of the board

Use this representation to teach the construction of the present perfect. Elicit examples of each component before asking the students to suggest some statements. Have them convert the sentences into their negative form and if you can, an L1 translation. After that, use the timeline to highlight when and why we use the tense, and try to elicit examples of common question structures and short answers.

EFL - ESL Lead-in activity | Elementary | Teaching present perfect


A perfect sentence

For this writing activity, the students will use the target language to create statements from a list of prompts on the board.

Write the following prompts on the board and have the students work individually to make present perfect sentences. Tell them that at least two should be negative.

1. My friend / Circus
2. I / zoo
3. They / practicing / Chinese
4. He / Star Wars / yet?
5. You / ice hockey?

When finished, correct as a group and elicit both the positive and negative solutions.

Have you ever...?

A speaking activity where the students use the present perfect to interview each other about past experiences.

Students will work in pairs to ask and answer "have you ever...?" style questions. Before they begin, add the following to the board and elicit a few verbs for each:

Musical instrument
Summer camp
The sea
Music concert
Roller coaster

If you feel the class are capable, encourage them to ask follow-up questions in the past simple to get more information. Demo this before they begin.

Teacher: Have you ever been to a music concert?
Student: Yes, I have.
Teacher: Who did you see?
Student: I saw ACDC.
Teacher: Where was the concert?

What have you done?

For this pairwork speaking activity, the students will interview each other to find out what experiences they have in common.

Tell your students to make a list of 8-10 funny or interesting things that they have done in their lives. They will then use this to interview a partner to find out if they have any experiences in common. Monitor the conversations, encourage follow-up questions and discourage one-word responses.

When finished, ask each pair a few questions about their interview to find out who had the most in common.


Two truths, one lie 

This classic ESL game idea can be a great way to wrap up a lesson on the present perfect. 

To begin, tell your students to come up with three present perfect statements about themselves. One of these should be a lie. Each student will then come to the front of the class and read their sentences while their classmates ask follow-up questions to determine which statement is the lie.

Dicing with time 

Players have to use the present perfect to create accurate statements related to a particular time in their day. 

You'll need dice or a dice app on your phone. Divide the class into two teams, write 12 random times of the day on the board and number them. On each turn, the student in play will roll the dice and have to then come up with three present perfect sentences that relate to that time using justyet and already to describe: 

1. Something that they have normally just done at that time? 
2. Something that they haven't done yet. 
3. Something that they have already done. 

Give one point for each grammatically correct sentence. You can use a mix of times and time expressions (Nine o'clock in the morning, 12.30pm, half-past eight in the evening etc.). To avoid repetition, limit each verb/activity to a single use and keep track of them on the board.

More A2 ESL lesson plans for elementary students

Our suggested next free lesson plan is on using 'since' and 'for' with the present perfect If you've found these materials useful, be sure to check out our full list of A2+ lesson plans. For other levels, have a look at our complete selection of EFL - ESL lesson plans. If you use an Android or iOS device, try out the TEFL Handbook app.

Printable versions of all resources are available to members. View a sample
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