In conversation, we often move from general statements to more detailed information. “Have you seen Frozen?” “Yeah – I saw it last week. It was great.”

These types of conversations provide a natural context for students to practice the differences between the present perfect (for the indefinite past) and simple past tense. The following activity is scaffolded so that students target the language they want to use and then practice it in an authentic activity.

At the end of this article is a link to a downloadable chart that I use in this activity.

  1. I start this activity by writing a copy of the chart on the board and filling in my own favorites. As a whole class, we discuss which past participles we could use to form questions for each of these favorites. For some “favorites” we choose more than one past participle. For example, for Unusual Food, we might write eaten, tried and had.
  2. I model the activity by asking students my questions (Have you ever been to Italy?) and some follow up questions (When did you go? What did you do?). These are the details for the final column on the chart. I also elicit from students that we have used both present perfect and simple past in this exchange.
  3. Next, students write their favorites on their own charts. They can write the past participle to the left – but not the entire question. I want them to ask the question, not read it.
  4. They then mingle and find classmates who have seen their favorite movie or been to their favorite place in town. By providing details, students move beyond a simple yes/no answer and make the switch from present perfect to simple past tense.
  5. After the chart is completed, students share with the whole class something interesting they learned about a classmate. This allows students to practice the third person present perfect. Students can also write about their classmates using the information on the chart. These sentences should use both present perfect and simple past tense.

Download “Tell Me More” Activity