When did you last...?
This is a simple activity to set up and gives low level learners plenty of opportunity to speak and practise using the past simple.
- Write up on the board: When did you last go to a restaurant? (or a similar question which best suits the age and culture of your students eg. ‘When did you last go the park?’ or ‘When did you last go to the cinema?’).
- Draw a line all the way down the board to the right of this in which you can write vocabulary and phrases that students ask you for during the activity.
- Throw the question open to the whole class and write up time phrases that students need in your vocabulary part of the board eg. Last week, two weeks ago, in March, on my birthday etc.
- Ask students what other questions you could ask about this event eg. for the restaurant they might say:
- Which restaurant did you go to?
- Who did you go with?
- What did you eat?
- Did you like it?
- Did you have dessert?
- What did you talk about?
- Build up a list of as many questions as you can on the board.
- Once you have a good number of questions on the board group students into two or threes and ask them to ask and answer questions together.
- Tell them they don’t need to write anything as the aim of this activity is speaking practice. Monitor as the students speak but don’t interrupt.
- Focus on students’ use of the past simple and make a note of any problems or mistakes. As students ask you for help with vocabulary and phrases write these up on the board in your vocabulary section.
- Bring students back together after about 10 minutes and go through any difficulties that you picked up with the use and form of the past simple during monitoring.
- Move students round to form new pairs or groups of threes and give each group another ‘When did you last…? Question. Again you should choose these to suit your students but they may include ‘go to the cinema?’ ‘go on holiday?’ ‘go shopping?’ ‘visit a relative?’.
- Give students a time limit, say 5 or 10 minutes, depending on how easily they can work with the target language, and ask them to write as many questions as they can think of for the situation they‘ve been given. The teacher moves round the groups helping and correcting the questions. Make sure all students in the group write the questions as they will need them later.
- Further semi-controlled speaking practice.
- Change students into new groups and tell them to ask their questions and this time to write down the answers. As in step 2 you can monitor and write up the vocabulary that students need.
- At this stage students return to the group in which they wrote their questions and compare the answers they received. After a few minutes the teacher can go over any further past simple matters that came up during monitoring.
- Every student now has a set of answers to the questions they wrote before. They could use these to write a short text in the past simple either in class or at home.