Published 28th August 2017

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  • past tense of verb ‘to be’ + verb + ing


  • used to describe an action taking place at a certain time in the past


  • I was watching TV when the phone rang.
  • Yesterday at 3 o’clock I was doing my homework.

The past continuous is a grammar structure usually taught at the pre-intermediate level. Though it is a relatively simple structure to form, students need practise using it in order to make it more natural. This is a fun activity which can be used to do exactly that.

Activity: Alibi

Preparation: Write activities on slips of paper, one for each student. A few papers must have guilty written on them.

Procedure: Tell the students that a crime has been committed – make up a crime with reference to the class to make it more realistic eg the library was burned down; Mrs Turner’s cat was stolen. A few people in the class are guilty, responsible for committing the crime.

Put the students into groups.

Hand out the slips of paper. Tell the students their paper will either tell them their alibi or if they are guilty. One group must all be given the guilty papers.

Tell the students they are about to be questioned by the police so they need to make sure their alibis are flawless. Give them a few minutes to think of details they can add to their alibis and to discuss their stories within their groups. This gives the guilty group some time to come up with their own alibi.

Taking turns, each group is interviewed by the police (ie the rest of the class). So while one member of the group is interviewed, the other members of the group are kept outside. The police must take turns asking questions to try to figure out if their alibi is real.

For example: Where were you at 4 o’clock yesterday? What were you doing?

They must try to use the information from other members to try to outsmart the other group members.

For example: Kim says you went to the cinema with her yesterday. What was she wearing?

Once all the groups have been questioned, the police must decide who they think is the guilty group and the offenders must own up to the crime.

Students love the idea of trying to trick their fellow classmates so they really seem to enjoy this game. It can also be altered into a class mingle rather than a whole class activity.