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

This ESL activity will test students on the different uses for the present simple and present continuous. They'll work in pairs to make present tense sentences from the following prompts that correspond to a particular rule of usage:

1. pilot license. - 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


In this fun role-play activity, one student pretends to have a particular occupation while another pretends to be a reporter who has come to interview them while they are working. Before they begin, 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?

Students take turns in each role while the teacher monitors for the correct usage of the present simple and present continuous.

Holiday email

This ESL writing activity is great for practising the present tenses. Students will work in pairs on the following scenario:

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. (Use frequency adverbs)

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

Related games

20 Questions: Everyday objects

A variation of 20 Questions can be used to practice the present simple and continuous. 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?...

Additional ESL resources for teachers

Here's a collection of free teaching resources from around the web that can be used to teach the present tenses.

This worksheet on present simple vs present continuous from vpssa.edu.rs along with this from busyteacher contain a good variety of exercises that can be used to test your student's understanding the grammar.

tefl.net have a fantastic list of ESL classroom activities for combining the present simple and present continuous. It's well worth having a look through these.

For an alternative approach, check out this wonderfully detailed lesson plan from Danielle Gonzalez. There are some excellent notes on the Student teacher interaction. A fantastic resource for new teachers.

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 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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