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ESL Present Simple vs. Present Continuous Speaking Activities

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

Your ESL students can easily learn to differentiate between the present simple and the present continuous if you give them some fun speaking activities. Here are some ideas to keep your class really engaged.

All Students Practice Both Tenses

You give your ESL students all the necessary knowledge about the present simple and the present continuous tenses. However, this does not guarantee that your class is able to differentiate between the two tenses. For practical purposes, it is important to give our ESL students some combined practice of these tenses. The key to combined practice of two tenses is that all students should get a chance to practice both tenses within one activity. This allows the whole class to contrast the present simple and the present continuous tenses as they practice through fun activities, like the ones in this lesson.

Present Simple vs. Present Continuous Activities

For the most part, the activities you have here get your students to practice speaking skills. However, the great aspect of these activities is that they are adaptable, and with a minor change, you can get your students to write if you wish. Just give them a sheet of paper and direct them to write their answers instead of saying them.

Chart Activity

Charts are particularly great when they show us people in different situations. You can find great images on the Internet to use in this activity. Depending on the topic you want, you can search 'scene at a beach,' 'scene at a museum,' 'scene at a supermarket,' etc. and usually you find visuals with lots of people doing different things in them. For this activity, your ESL students can work in pairs, and each pair gets a chart with a given scene. The students take turns asking questions and answering them using the present continuous. For example, with a beach scene, the following dialogue should occur:

  • Student A asks: What is he doing? (while pointing at a person in the image)
  • Student B replies: He is reading the newspaper.

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