If you’re looking for some of the best ideas for teaching the verb “to be” in the past tense (was/were), you’re in the right place. We have the best activities and games, along with worksheets and lesson plans to teach this unit in style!
Was Were Activities
Let’s get into the best activities and games for teaching the past tense form of the verb “to be.”
This is a challenging listening activity for slightly higher-level students. Find or write a passage with lots of sentences that use was/were. Then, students have to work together to dictate the passage correctly. This is a nice lead-in to focus on the specifics of this grammar point. Find out all the details you need to know to use it in class:
#2: Me Too!
Students have to take turns making a true statement using was or were. For example:
- I was sleeping at 7:30 this morning.
- My sister and I were studying English last weekend.
If someone can agree with the statement, they can stand up and say, “Me too!” Continue until everyone has had a chance to make 1-2 sentences (depending on the class size).
#3: Where Was It?
A simple way to focus on was and were is to show students some objects on a PowerPoint slide. They can study it in for a minute. Then, move some things around on the next slide, or take some things away. Ask some questions like:
- Where was the eraser before?
- Was the pencil on the desk?
- Were there 3 or 4 apples?
#4: Find Someone Who…
Have students make up some statements that they think some, but not all of their classmates might answer yes to. I find that four or five is a good number. For example:
Find someone who . . .
- was asleep at 7 am this morning.
- was almost late for class today.
- was annoyed at something on the way to school.
- was sleepy before they drank coffee today.
Then, students have to circulate around the class, finding someone who answers yes to all of their questions.
#5: Proofreading and Editing
A nice way to get students to focus on forms is to have them do some proofreading using the target language. Make some mistakes in a passage with lots of was/were sentences. Find out more:
Proofreading and Editing Activity for ESL.
#6: Consider Using the Test-Teach-Test Approach for Was Were
It’s likely that students already know a fair bit about using was and were in past tense sentences, unless they are absolute beginners. That’s why it makes sense to find out what students already know, before jumping into what they don’t. Here’s a nice way to do that:
#7: Mixed Up Sentences with Was/Were
Was and were sentences can be a bit tricky when it comes to word order, especially with question forms and negatives. That’s why I like to do this unscramble the words to make a sentence activity. Find out more:
Mixed Up Sentences ESL Activity.
#8: Man/Woman on the Street Interview Activity
A fun way to interview someone is to use this man or woman on the street activity. To focus on was and were, have students talk about what they were doing when something important happened. For example:
- Where were you when 9-11 happened?
- What were you doing when you found out that you got your current job?
#9: Dictation Practice
A nice way to find out if students have understood a concept, or not is to have them write it down on a piece of paper. Dictate either a question (Were you late to class today?) or an answer (My mom wasn’t working outside the house when I was growing up). Then, students have to write the answer or the question, depending on the situation.
#10: Yes/No Question ESL Games
Was and were lend themselves really well to yes/no questions. Here are some of the top ideas for teaching this to English learners:
#11: Vocabulary Auction
One of my favourite games for helping students build sentences is the vocabulary auction. It does take a little bit of prep, but students LOVE it. Check it out:
#12: Was Were ESL Reading Lesson
It’s actually quite easy to design your own reading lesson for just about anything, including was/were. Seriously. There are a few simple steps to follow. The advantage is that you can tailor the lesson to exactly what you want to teach, at the right level. Learn more here:
How to Make an ESL Reading Lesson Plan.
#13: Is that Sentence Correct
In this activity, students have to decide if a sentence is correct, or not. If it’s incorrect, they have to make the necessary changes. It can be done in pairs or small groups, and it also makes a nice homework assignment or exam question. Find out more:
Is that Sentence Correct Activity?
#14: More Ideas for Teaching the Past Tense
Was and were are the past tense forms of the verb “to be.” However, there is a lot more to using the past tense than these two verbs. Have a look at my other ideas here:
ESL Past Tense Games and Activities.
#15: ESL Reading Lesson for Was Were
It’s easier than you might think to plan an ESL reading lesson using was and were. There are a few simple steps to follow to ace lesson planning like a champ!
#16: Fill in the Blank ESL Games and Activities
A nice way to teach was/were to beginners is to use some fill in the blank activities. This is far easier than students having to produce this language without any structure. Have a look at some fill in the blanks ideas:
Fill in the Blanks Games for ESL.
#17: Sentence Structure TEFL Activities
Time spent helping students build better sentences is never wasted time! After all, sentences are the foundation of any language. Was and were certainly can get a bit tricky when you consider questions and negatives. Check out some of my ideas for helping students build sentences:
Sentence Structure ESL Activities.
#18: Running Dictation
I love to use this game to get students out of their seats and moving around the classroom. It’s the ultimate TEFL activity for Monday morning or Friday afternoons when you need to create a bit of energy.
It’s also ideal for teaching the past tense forms of the verb “to be.” Just write (or find) a conversation containing lots of instances of them. Then, follow the steps below to put together a nice activity.
Was Were Worksheet
If you’re a teacher, then you already know how much time it can save to use materials that other teachers have created. Here are some of the best options for was were worksheets.
Was and Were ESL Lesson Plans
If you want to teach was were questions and statements in an interesting way, consider one of these lesson plans:
More Ideas for Teaching English
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 145 Pages - 03/10/2016 (Publication Date) - CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (Publisher)
The key to better English classes is a wide variety of interactive and engaging ESL activities and games. This is the book you need to get through the semester in style: 101 ESL Activities for Teenager and Adults.
Pick up a copy of the book today, and get ready for better English lessons tomorrow:
Was Were Activity: Join the Conversation
Do you have any favourite activities or games for teaching was and were to English learners? Leave a comment and let us know. We’d love to hear from you.
Last update on 2022-07-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API