Teaching the present continuous to teens

present continuous question what are you doing
13 Nov SAV 2 Comments

Here are some ideas for present continuous. These games and many more are in ESL Classroom Activities for Teens and Adults. In Paperback or Kindle and in instant Download.


Demonstrate the present continuous

First, explain that the present continuous is something which is happening NOW – it's real time only. There is also the future use of the present continuous “What are you doing on Monday?” but you might want to leave that for a different lesson. It can be confusing to teach two new concepts at once.


Mime things so they understand the meaning such as "I am walking to the end of the class". "I am writing on the board" while you are writing.


Listening game to drill the present continuous

Bring three students up to the front and tell them to mime an action that they know how to say in English. For example drinking, eating, running, walking, talking, etc. Give the students the action written on a piece of paper if they do not have enough ideas of their own - have those ready in advance.


Tell all three students to start miming their action at the same time - three different actions. Then you say one of them – “He is drinking” - and the class calls out the name of the student who is drinking. Then say, “She is walking” – and the students name the one who is walking.


Speaking drill game 2

This can be used for present and/ or future uses of the Present Continuous tense. Do a class brainstorm activity where A asks B out, but B doesn't want to go and has to come up with an excuse why not. As long as the answer is grammatically correct it doesn't matter how crazy it is. Give some examples to students first such as, "Do you want to come to the cinema?" "I can't. I'm doing my homework."


Divide the class into two or three teams. Ask the class, "Would you like to come to town with me?" Teams call out reasons they can't come. I can't, I'm washing my hair. I'm eating lunch. I'm meeting my parents. I'm watching TV. I'm meeting my boyfriend. I'm catching squirrels in my basement. For every reason given that team gets a point. 


TIP: Give double points for original answers if you like - that could encourage creativity and make it more fun.



TIP: A person cannot give more than one reason per minute. Tell students to respect this rule and if you catch anyone out their team loses all their points and starts at zero again! This prevents one person from taking over and gives the others a chance to think of things and participate. Top students can keep score as well as join in the game, not more than one phrase per minute. They need extra tasks to stay interested.


TIP: Let teams call out answers randomly, as soon as students think of something they call it out. Have a student keeping score for each team. This will keep the pace moving. It's boring if you go around one student after the other, methodically, unless you only have a handful of students.



FIND A FRIEND - present continuous

Have students think of an activity, mime it, go around the class asking others "What are you doing?" The other student replies. If it is the same activity they carry on and try to find others doing the same activity they are.


TIP: Before you start, say that the winners will either be those who are unique, with no others doing the same activity, OR the winners will be those who found the most other people with the same activity. But you won't announce which one it is until the game is over.


Writing drill for the present continuous

Divide the class into teams and bring a representative of each team to the board. On "Go" the students start writing sentences in the present continuous, but only for as long as they can hold their breath. When they run out of breath, they return to their seat and number two in the team comes up and takes over. Continue until each team member has had a turn.  Then read the sentences and see which team has written the most. Only accurate sentences earn a point!


TIP: With more than 20 students use big sheets of paper instead of the board. Stick these around the classroom and make teams of 4 to 5 students per team. This prevents everyone from getting bored sitting around waiting for a turn.  If all students have computers or phones, then you might have a digital solution for this idea.


TIP: Have a couple of students act as judges. They circulate and observe players. Anyone caught cheating (taking a breath while writing), is out, not only that person but their whole team.

man holding breath for present continuous game


These games and many more are in ESL Classroom Activities for Teens and Adults. In Paperback or Kindle and in instant Download.



You might like my book of skits for teens. It includes an easy skit for the present continuous for now, a longer skit that includes present continuous for now and a third skit for the present continuous for future.  I'm publishing this book soon, leave me a note in the comments below and I'll be able to contact you when it's out. Or you could email me via the contacts page - just see the menu tab at the top of this blog.


All the best

Shelley Ann Vernon



I would love to know when your new book is out. Thanks
Dear Brenda, Hello there and I hope all is well. This book of teen skit is available. It is in download from me, and, in the case of this particular book, I think that is the best format since you can easily print off a skit if need be. But if you prefer, it's in paperback too, on Amazon. Here is a link to it: https://www.teachingenglishgames.com/ESL-plays-and-skits-for-teens All the best Shelley

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