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EFL - ESL activities and games for the present simple and present continuous

This ESL lesson plan contains activities, games and resources for teaching the present simple and continuous to intermediate level students (B1). The recommended way to view these materials is through the TEFL Handbook app, which gives you offline access to everything on the site.

Lead-in activity

The sample board below can be used to compare and contrast the different functional uses of the present simple and present continuous. Step through each, explain the difference and elicit an example sentence. The text in blue implies opportunities to elicit responses from your students.

EFL - ESL Present simple and present continuous | Intermediate

ESL classroom activities

Sentence builder

A pairwork writing activity where students make sentences that correspond to a particular functional use of the present simple or continuous.

Start by adding the following prompts to the board:

1. pilot licence - In progress
2. chef - A permanent state
3. broken arm - Temporary
4. homework - Complaining
5. latest episode - At the moment
6. children - Routine
7. NASA - Developing

Divide the class into pairs and have them create a present tense sentence for each prompt. When finished, they can compare their work with another duo.


A role-play activity where students are interviewed by a journalist while at work.

Start by splitting the group into pairs. Tell each pair that one of them is going to pretend to have a particular occupation and that their partner will play the role of a reporter who has come to interview them at work.

As preparation, you should go over the different kinds of present simple and present continuous questions they could ask. Try to elicit the following and add them to the board:

1. Their routine
a. What time do you start work?
b. How many hours do you work a day/week?
c. What are your main responsibilities?
2. What they are doing at the moment
a. What are you doing at the moment?
b. Why are you doing that?
3. If they are happy with their job
a. Do you like your job?...Why/Why not?
b. What would you change about it?

Before they begin, tell each pair to decide which occupation they will use for the role play. To avoid repetition, make sure no two pairs select the same profession.

Give the students a few minutes to prepare for the task. When ready, each pair can take turns performing for the class. For larger classes, you may have to run this part concurrently. In either case, monitor for the correct usage of the present simple and present continuous.

Holiday email

A writing activity where students correspond with a friend while on holiday.

In pairs, the students will work on the following scenario as a writing exercise:

You're on holiday with your friends, one of your friends couldn't make it. It's 10 o'clock and you're all at a party. Write an email to your friend and describe:

1. What you and your friends are doing now.
2. What your daily routine is like. (Use frequency adverbs)

Encourage your students to be as imaginative as possible and let them read their emails to the class if they wish.

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Related games

20 Questions: Everyday objects 

Players use the target grammar of the lesson to nail down a random object that their classmate is thinking of. 

On each turn, a student will come to the front of the class. They must think of a specific everyday object and answer questions from its point of view. The other students take turns asking a question and attempting to guess which object they are. 

To give them an idea of the kind of questions they'll need to ask, do a quick demo before they begin: 

Student A: Are you in the bedroom? 
Student B: Yes. 
Student A: Are you a bed? 
Student B: No, I'm not. 
Student C: Are you full of clothes?...

More B1 ESL lesson plans

Our suggested next lesson is on stative verbs. Be sure to check out our full list of ESL lesson plans for intermediate students, as well as our complete selection of EFL - ESL lesson plans. If you use an iOS or Android device, have a look at the TEFL Handbook app. An ESL lesson planner for English teachers. It has a lot more content and gives you faster access to our teaching resources, making it easier to use in class.

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