GRAMMAR: Teaching Simple Past in an Online Lesson

/ A1, A2, B1, Grammar training, Teachers

November 2020 – This is a lesson plan teaching and revising regular and irregular verbs in simple past. Students need to be at high A1-A2 level, but you can also use this lesson for a revision lesson at B1 level. The lesson plan is written for an online lesson.

WARM UP: aims to revise spelling when forming gerund forms

Start your lesson with a quick activity to revise -ing forms of the verbs: ask you student what his/her family is doing at the moment or choose some pictures (This is a sample with four pictures from Ask your student to type in some of the -ing forms into the chat box.
N.B: You should revise the spelling of verbs
– with a -y at the end (in both pronunciation forms: carry vs play), because they don’t change in present continuous (carrying, playing) but will be different in simple past (carried vs played);
– with one vowel + one consonant (in this order), because they double both in present continuous (stopping, hugging, planning, cutting, setting) and in simple past in case they are regular (stopped, hugged, planned).
You don’t need to explain all the above at this point, just check that your student is familiar with spelling issues in present simple.

LEAD IN: aims to introduce the topic (simple past forms)

Now lead your student from the present into the past: You can
– ask your student what these people in the pictures did some minutes before the photo shot;
– ask your student what their family did the day before;
– ask your student what they did before the lesson.
Look for some reference to vehicles, means of transport and driving and ask them whether they (or their parents) can drive.
Tell them that today you are going to talk about regular and irregular verbs in simple past:

MAIN PART: aims to clarify and organize the grammar rules related to simple past (regular and irregular)

Now tell them that they are going to watch a short video about a driving test: Go to LearnEnglish Teens – Past simple – regular verbs
Show them the video twice:
– during the first listening they need to understand if the boy (Alfie) passed the driving test this second time,
– during the second listening, they should type into the chat box all the verbs they hear (and see in the subtitles) in simple past.
Ask for feedback and elicit the following rules: follow the points under the video screen and do the three ‘Check your grammar‘ exercises at the bottom of the page.

Now, go to the QUIZ ‘Regular verbs in simple past: pronunciation and spelling: you can watch the introductory video with your student, explaining the pronunciation (4:54 minutes), but you can skip this step and just recap the rules quickly, eliciting from the student as much as possible. Following the video, there are three exercises:
– to decide which final sounds are ‘voiced’ and which are ‘voiceless/unvoiced’;
– to decide how we pronounce the -ed ending in different regular verbs and finally
– to practise the spelling of irregular verbs.
These exercises are interactive, students can also do them on their own after the lesson.
N.B. You can find an excellent pdf file about the pronunciation on ENGLISH ZONE.

Finally, you can find a set of flashcards on QUIZLET to practice pronunciation and spelling: you can ask your student to listen to the pronunciation and repeat the verbs or you can ask him/her to do one of the interactive tasks (Learn, Write, Match, Test, etc.). Also this can be assigned for homework.

LEAD OVER to irregular verbs:

– you can ask your student if all the verbs are regular and if he/she knows other verb forms or
– you can ask them about a nightmare journey.

Tell them, they are going to watch a video about a terrible journey to the US. Send them to LearnEnglishTeens – Past simple – irregular verbs. Students can read twice:
– during the first listening, they need to understand why Sophie’s work trip was a nightmare,
– during the second listening, they need to write down the mentioned simple past irregular verb forms.
After watching, go through their list and clarify infinitive and simple past forms. Finally, make your student do the three ‘Check your grammar‘ exercises at the bottom of the LearnEnglish page.

Practise their pronunciation and spelling. This QUIZLET flashcard set can help you (the verbs are from New English File Intermediate – second edition). Also here, you have different interactive practice options: LEARN, WRITE, SPELL, TEST, MATCH, GRAVITY.

To help your student memorize irregular simple past forms, try to organize them into groups based on similarities in their past forms. Then make up a memo sentence/story together to connect them (in past or in present, important is to associate them with one another). For example:
get, sell, shine, tell, win: He sold his car and got 10,000 lottery tickets. He won 1,000,000 pounds. He didn’t tell anybody, just got a new car which shone brighter than the sun.
tear, wear: She wore her new coat only once and tore it at the party.
stand, understand: I could stand that I didn’t understand…
bring, buy, fight, think, find: I found the last turkey in the supermarket. I fought for it, but bought it eventually. I thought of the sauce, too and brought some cranberries too.
blow, fly, grow, know, throw,
possible also draw: I grew up in a little village, where everybody know everybody. We grew vegetables and threw nothing out. We blew soap bubbles in the garden and drew pictures of them.
break, choose, speak, steal, wake: Somebody broke into our house at night, but we didn’t wake up. They choose the most important item in our house, they stole our phone. How can we speak now with mum?
begin, drink, ring, sing, swim: I drank some wine, began at nine, sang a song and rang my mum, then swam in the river for fun.
(You can also add run to it for its V2 and V3 form.)
have, hear, make: I heard somewhere that if you have breakfast every day, you make your day better.
say, pay: He said, he paid it (but he lied).
catch, teach: His mother caught him and taught him a lesson.
build, dream, feel, keep, learn, leave, lend, lose, mean, meet, send, sit, sleep, spend: They dreamt about a house in the mountains for years. They lent some money from the bank and built it eventually. This place meant a lot to them. They spent most of the time there, they felt happy there. They sat for hours in front of the fire place, they often slept in their armchairs. They met new people there and learnt how to live without the city. They lost the enthusiasm for the city, As soon as they were sent into retirement, they left the city for good.
come, become: Come with us and become a pirate!
beat, bite, hide: Why are the kids hiding? They beat and bit each other, then hid for shame.
be, see: I was here and I saw everything.
cost, cut, hit, hurt, let, put, set, shut: Shut up and hit the road! It cost me a fortune to put up with you. You just hurt me. Cut it out, set off now or let me go.
drive, ride, write: She drove him crazy, so he wrote a letter and rode away.

Once they connect these verbs, it’ll be enough to remember the irregular past form only for one, the others behave in the same way.

WIND DOWN: to make students relax and finish the lesson in a pleasant activity

Finish your lesson with a song, where the grammar of the lesson is recycled, but in a relaxing way. Here are two ideas what songs you might want to use:
Elvis Presley: Are You Lonesome Tonight – Fill in the missing simple past forms (there is also another exercise where students need to complete the questions with one auxiliary verb)
Celine Dion: River Deep – Mountain High – You will find three tasks for the same song: complete missing verb forms, missing comparative forms and match sentence halves.

If you lesson is in December and in January, you could talk about the previous/ending year. Copy and paste into the chat box to the following gapped questions (without the solution at the end of each line):
– What … you do in January, February, March, etc.? (did)
– What … the best thing? (was)
– What … you do for the first time in your life this ending/last year? (did)
– What films … you see this year you really liked? (did)
– What … invented this year? (was)
– What … the weather like in the spring/summer/autumn/winter? (…)
– … you buy something nice? (Did)
– … you meet new people? (Did)
– … you solve any problems in your life? (Did)
– … you have a good year? (Did)
Ask the student to complete the missing (auxiliary) verbs and then answer the questions.
Possible last two questions could be:
– What will you tell about this year to your grandchildren (in the future)?
– Will you make any New Year’s resolution for the new year?


YL – Introducing kids to simple past regular verbs
Last summer: Did you have a whale of a time?
GROUP WRITING TASK: Fortunately – Unfortunately
LESSON PLAN – Regular verbs in simple past

ARE YOU INTERESTED IN FURTHER LESSON PLANS? Then you might want to check out:


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