Where would you find these sentences?

Use this past continuous past and simple activity to help students feel the use of the two forms together.

This one was really fun to make 🙂 It was also necessary for me to find a new angle when it comes to teaching the past continuous and past simple together. I find that students really have a hard time figuring out the “rules” because it’s not particularly easy to explain. The best way I’ve found to explain it is to say that the past continuous part of the sentence creates a “window of time” and the past simple portion is an even that happens within that window. The window can be any amount of time, and it helps to describe the background to the event. This explanation seems good to me, but then I don’t have any activities that really capture the essence of the idea.

So I made this one! These sentences frame the above mentioned idea inside a “guess the genre” type of activity. Students can work in pairs or small groups. There are 4 sentences for each genre. There are a few that could go either way, so students will have to decide together.

There is a good mixture of “while’s” and “when’s” and even a couple of “as” thrown in there as an introduction. Use this past continuous and past simple activity to help students feel the use of the two forms together.

Once they make their decisions, have students give their answers one sentence at a time. Ask them which part is “the window” and which is the event. Or have them underline or highlight one of the two. How can the structure change with different placements of while and when?

Then, have the pairs, groups or even individuals come up with one sentence for each genre. Collect the sentences and then draw one at random. Students will guess which genre it should belong to. One point for the writer, if the grammar is correct, and one point for the person who guesses correctly. If you are doing this online, have students write their own sentences somewhere else and copy and paste them one at a time in the chat.

Hope it helps you as much as me!


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Ian Kime

Ian Kime

I have been teaching English abroad since receiving my CELTA certificate in Poland in 2018. I enjoy tracking my individual students’ development but love having lessons with big groups! Now that I teach online, I am accompanied by my sidekicks Olaf, Mała, Pirate and Bandit on a regular basis.

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