Stage 1: Present examples  

Before the lesson, prepare some sentences which contain important events and dates in the life of an important person, e.g. Nelson Mandela. Include regular and irregular past simple verbs. For example: 

Nelson Mandela was born in 1918. He started school in 1925. He went to college in 1939. He graduated in 1943. He married in 1944. He was in prison from 1964 to 1990. He became the first black president of South Africa in 1994. He went to hospital in June 2013. He didn’t get better and died six months later. 

Ask learners what they know about Nelson Mandela.  

Write a list of dates on one side of the board. Write your sentences on the board but don’t include the dates, e.g. Nelson Mandela was born in _____. 

Learners work in pairs to copy the sentences and add the dates. 

Draw a lifeline on the board. Say the first date, 1918. Ask: ‘What happened in 1918?’ (= He was born). Repeat with other dates and events, and label the lifeline on the board. 

  • 1918  
  • ¦--------------¦-----------------¦-----------
  • was born 

Ask one or two questions, e.g. ‘When did he start school?’  

Ask learners to work in pairs and ask and answer more questions. Monitor

To help learners you could: 

  • underline the past simple verb forms 
  • write model questions on the board, e.g. When did he marry? 
  • correct learners by pointing to the board when they use past simple forms incorrectly  
  • ask learners if these events are happening now or if they’ve ended (= ended, i.e. in the past). 

Stage 2: Take feedback  

Ask learners to share their feedback on what they have noticed in the example sentences. Here are some key points which you might want to share with them or write on the board.  


We use past simple to describe events that are finished. We always use the past simple if we say when something happened, e.g. Nelson Mandela died in 2013. 


  • Regular verbs end in ‘ed’, e.g. He started school when he was seven years old.  
  • Verbs ending in consonant + ‘y’, change to ‘ied’, e.g. ‘marry’/‘married’, but verbs ending in vowel + ‘y’ don’t change, e.g. ‘played’.  
  • Many verbs are irregular, e.g. ‘go’/‘went’ – learners need to remember these.  
  • The question form: Did + I/you/she/we/they + infinitive, e.g. When did he die? 
  • The negative form: Did not; contracted form and pronunciation, e.g. He didn’t get better. 


Regular past simple verbs end in ‘ed’, but there are three ways to pronounce these:  

  • /t/ – as in ‘looked’  
  • /d/ – as in ‘lived’  
  • /ɪd/ – as in ‘wanted’. 

Stage 3: Use the grammar 


Learners draw a lifeline and add dates only. In pairs they ask and answer questions to find out what happened on the dates.  

Or learners create a lifeline for an older member of their family or community and add dates only. In pairs they ask and answer questions to find out what happened on the dates.  

Stand up, sit down 

Read statements about the past simple. Learners stand up if they are true and sit down if they are false. 

  • We can use the past simple to talk about what is happening now (F). 
  • We can use the past simple with the time words ‘yesterday’, ‘one month ago’ and ‘last week’ (T). 
  • We can use the past simple to talk about events that are finished (T). 
  • We can use the past simple to tell stories (T). 
  • To make the past simple, we add -ing to the verb (F). 

Find someone who 

Learners mingle and ask questions to find a classmate who, for example, went to the market last weekend, caught the bus yesterday.   

Short story 

Learners write their own short story about a long-distance journey, paying attention to the past simple verbs. When they finish, their partner reads it and checks the past simple verbs. 

Chain story 

Learners work in groups. Each learner writes the first sentence of a story at the top of their paper. They pass the papers to the person on their left and write another sentence. Repeat until each learner in the group has added a sentence. The learner who wrote the first sentence writes a final sentence to end the story.


Consonant: A non-vowel sound. Consonants are pronounced by stopping the air from flowing easily through the mouth, e.g. ‘b’, ‘g’, ‘k’, ‘t’, ‘v’. 

Feedback: Information about how or how well a learner has done something. 

Label: Write a short piece of information about. 

Lifeline: Some of the most important or relevant points in a person’s life. 

Monitor: The way a teacher watches to see how well an individual, group or class is doing a particular task.  

Vowel: A sound made when breath comes from the mouth without being blocked by teeth, tongue or lips (in English = ‘a’, ‘e’, ‘i’, ‘o’, ‘u’).