EFL - ESL activities and games for using the present simple

This ESL lesson plan contains activities and games for teaching the present simple to elementary level students. Use these as a stand-alone lesson plan, or to supplement an existing one. If you use an iOS or Android device, don't forget that you can get offline access to these materials, along with a much more extensive selection of ESL lesson plans, through the TEFL Handbook app.

Lead-in activity

Use the board work below to step through the functional uses of the present simple. Students at this level should have an understanding of the grammar, so try to focus this lesson on its functional applications and elicit simple examples that demonstrate each.

EFL - ESL Lead-in activity on using present simple | Elementary

ESL classroom activities

Present simple definitions

For this writing activity, step through a series of nouns on the board and have your students create present simple statements that define them. Write the best ones on the board. Alternatively, you could make a list on the board and have the students work in groups to make the definitions. Some examples:

Dining room

Q & A: Present simple

This ESL activity challenges your students to form past simple questions and answers. First, students have to reorder the words to make questions, encourage them to check their answers with a partner when they have finished:

1. evenings / do / like / you / what / to / in ?
2. Homework / when / you / your / do / do ?
3. of / type / like / music / do / you / what ?
4. studying / enjoy / you / English / do ?
5. you / friends / do / doing / with / like / What / your ?
6. any / do / hobbies / you / have ?

Confirm they have the correct answers before dividing them into pairs. They will then use this list of questions to interview each other.

Best friend

In this EFL writing activity, students will use the present simple to write about their best friend. First, elicit some adjectives that describe a person’s personality and add them to the board:

For example: Boring, funny, serious, fun, friendly, amazing and clever.

Next, tell the students they are going to write about their best friend. Before they begin, elicit the type of information that they will need to put down and add it to the board. Confirm that they understand each of these:

Physical characteristics
What you like about them
Good at / Not good at
Things you have in common
Things you do together

Give me more

This is an excellent ESL writing activity that gets your students forming more complex sentences using the present simple. First, you'll need to confirm the students' understanding of the use of and, but and because and demonstrate how we use each one to give more information on something. Elicit or create examples on the board if you need to. Next, have the students write about things that they do during the summer that they don’t do in the winter. They should use the present simple for each statement and demonstrate the correct usage of and, but and because to give more information.

Related ESL games for teaching the present simple

Hot seat

We can modify this ESL favourite to revise the present simple. Divide the class into two teams. On each turn, one student will sit with their back to the board facing their teammates. Write a present simple sentence on the board behind the student in the hot seat. The other students must then make that student say this word using only English and without their hands or other gestures. Set a timer for between 1 and 2 minutes, depending on the level of the class. Also, you can choose to increase the difficulty by adding adjectives. Some examples:

The police drive white cars.
The earth goes around the sun.
Ronaldo lives in Madrid.
Spain has a lot of beaches.

Additional teaching resources

BusyTeacher has a very comprehensive and well-laid-out article on teaching the present simple which would be an excellent place for new ESL teachers to start. If you're looking for more activity ideas, teach-this.com have a fantastic list of ESL activities for teaching the present simple.

As usual, islcollective.com have some fantastic ESL worksheets on the present simple. For younger learners, we recommend 'Alfred's daily routine', while teenagers and older students could use these 'Present Simple exercises' to sharpen their grammar.

Finally, if you're lucky enough to have internet access and a monitor in your classroom, you should try this video by Cambridge University Press ELT in your lesson. It works well as both a lead-in or revision activity.

More A2 level ESL lesson plans

If you've found these ideas useful, be sure to check out our complete list of ESL lesson plans for elementary level students, A2 lower and A2 upper. For other levels, see the entire collection of ESL lesson plans. Our suggested next lesson is on personal pronouns. Also, Android and iOS users can access all of our materials through the TEFL Handbook app. An ESL lesson planner for English teachers.

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