Present Simple / Present Continuous

Using these two tenses together still causes my students lots of problems. It took me ages to find a good activity to practise them that didn’t involve gap fills and was challenging enough for upper intermediate level students, but the search was worth it.

The one I found was taken from the Reward Upper Intermediate Resource Pack (Unit 3b). In the original task the students look at a set of twelve pictures of people. They choose one in secret and write a profile of the person, including information such as what they are wearing, what book they are reading at the moment and where they usually go on holiday. The other students then read the profiles and decide which picture they wrote about.

I adapted it slightly by giving the students two minutes to draw their own pictures instead of using the ones from the book. This personalised it and provided much laughter! This is what we came up with:

7 people

14 thoughts on “Present Simple / Present Continuous

  1. Hi Naomi,
    Nobody did – I told them they had 10 minutes and I didn’t mind what they drew. It could have been a stick person or a smiley face. I did it with them too, so I think they were less self-conscious, especially once I showed them what mine looked like. Not sure how it would work with your students, but it’s worth a try. You could have the ready made photos as back, and it doesn’t really matter if some of the students don’t draw, because you only need 2 pictures to be able to do the activity.


  2. Hi,

    great idea! I had something similar for physical description, but I used pics I got from magazines. Your idea sounds like it could get students more involved. I´ll give it a try this year.



  3. Hi Sandy,

    I think these ideas of how we can adapt “given” materials to make them work better are really useful and help to make us think more creatively when we plan a class.

    Just posted a link to this on the TeachingEnglish facebook page if you’d like to check there for comments.

    Please feel free to post on the page whenever you have anything you’d like to share.




  4. I love this idea (and not just because it’s exactly the kind of thing I have just posted about on my blog!)

    Anything that encourages students to generate the content, exchange ideas and ‘explore space’ is bound to be more engaging than merely ‘filling gaps’.

    I’m planning to do a workshop on just these kind of ideas soon. Do you mind if I use this one as an example? 🙂


    1. Hi Sandy,

      I used this on the spur of the moment with one class yesterday and they really got into it. They are usually reluctant writers so I was very happy to see the amount of thought and energy they put into creating a profile for the drawing they chose.

      It worked so well that I used it with another class later in the day. To add a bit more of a challenge, I also stuck the drawings from the first group on the board giving them ten to choose from. Again, they came up with some really nice descriptions.

      I kept the pictures and write-ups and will use them for a wall display with multiple descriptions surrounding each picture. I may even encourage the addition of further descriptions if anybody wishes to do so.

      Thanks for sharing the idea. It’s now added to my bank of ideas for future use. 🙂


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