Think fast: what does “future continuous perfect” mean? No clue? You’re not alone. Most of us don’t think much about verb tenses. We just picked them up as we learned to speak. But there are a few advantages to understanding tenses, especially when it comes to irregular verbs. They’re also important when learning a new language. Try these verb tenses activities to give your students a leg up on this tricky topic.

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1. Sort sticky notes by ending or helping verb

How Verb Show Time anchor chart with sticky notes sorted into past, present, and future

Talking about verb tense endings or helping verbs? A simple sticky note sort is an easy way to give them hands-on practice.

Learn more: Smitten With First

2. Match up LEGO bricks

Lego bricks labeled with present and past tense of irregular verbs

What kid doesn’t love an excuse to play with LEGOs? Use a marker to write irregular verbs and their corresponding past or future tenses on individual bricks. Then kids match them up for practice. Want other educational uses for LEGO bricks? We’ve got them!

Learn more: The OT Toolbox

3. Travel in time with printable armbands

Printable verb tenses time machine arm bands and a pair of scissors

Fire up your imagination and take trips to the past, present, and future with these cute (and free) printable armbands. They’ll really help kids relate tenses to time.

Learn more: Lindy Loves to Teach

4. Roll helping verb cubes

Paper cube with helping verbs on each side and a printable worksheet for writing sentences

Get some helping verb practice by rolling these DIY cubes. Students roll the cubes, then write sentences with the correct verb tenses shown. Create your own cubes, or buy a printable set at the link below.

Learn more: Ashleigh’s Education Journey

5. Use timelines to explain verb tenses

Verb Tenses & Timelines anchor charts for simple verb tenses, progressive verb tenses, and perfect verb tenses

Verb tenses and timelines are a perfect match! Timelines help kids visualize the concept, especially when you get to the more complicated tenses.

Learn more: Upper Elementary Snapshots

6. Line up for human sentences

Kids lined up holding word cards to form a sentence

Pass out the free printable cards and have kids line up to form a present-tense sentence. Then change the tense, and see which student has the correct spelling of the word.

Learn more: Longwing Learning/TpT

7. Make simple tense mini-books

Verb Tenses printable ini books for past, present, and future

Give your students a booklet they can refer to as they practice verb tenses. Visit the link to get free, printable, simple verb tense mini-books to use with your class.

Learn more: Teacher Thrive

8. Play Zip, Zap, Zop

Instructions for playing Verb Tenses Zip Zap Zop

This fast-paced game is a fun way to practice tenses! Kids stand in a circle and take turns saying the past, present, and future tenses of verbs as they’re called out. Miss one? You’re out, and the game continues.

Learn more: Teaching With Class

9. Recognize the end sounds of past tense verbs

Students matching cards with past tense verbs with the appropriate pronunciation

The sounds that verb endings make can get tricky. Is it pronounced “Stop-ed” or “Stopt”? This activity helps clear up those challenges.

Learn more: The Balanced Literacy Diet

10. Tap lights to indicate tense

Tap lights with arrows pointing back, up, and forward, with bag of Past Present Future cards

Label tap lights with arrows indicating past, present, and future. Then, pull verb cards from a bag and have kids tap to turn on the correct tense light.

Learn more: Speech Time Fun

11. Watch a verb tenses video

This video will get your students up and moving! As each word (dance, jumped, wiggle) appears on the screen, they identify the tense or conjugate as prompted. After a few watches, they can move along with the music too.

12. Play Slap It! with verb tenses

Student and adult slapping their hands on a pile of colorful cards (Verb Tenses)

Flip over a verb from the “present” pile, then start flipping cards from the “past” pile. When the correct match appears, SLAP IT! The winner keeps the cards, and the play starts over. Get free printable cards to use for this game at the link.

Learn more: Deceptively Educational

13. Try some verb flashcards

Verb flashcards with cartoon pictures and sentences in the past tense

Flashcards aren’t just for numbers! This set helps kids learn irregular verbs, regular past tense, and active and passive verbs.

Learn more: Junior Learning Verb Flashcards/Amazon

14. Tell a story from a picture

Carton picture labeled What did they do? Box beneath has a fill-in-the-blank story to complete.

Have kids study a picture and tell a story about what they see. Set the story in the past, present, or future. Get a free printable to get you started at the link.

Learn more: iSL Collective

15. Spin and write to practice perfect tenses

Verb tenses printable game with spinner circle from The Curriculum Corner

Using a pencil and paperclip for a spinner, students flip a verb card, spin to see which tense they’ll use, and write out a sentence. Download the free printable at the link.

Learn more: The Curriculum Corner

16. Sing the Helping Verbs song

Helping Verbs song lyrics (Verb Tenses)

Helping verbs are part of verb tenses, and this catchy song helps kids learn them. After you sing it, challenge kids to write their own song !

Learn more: I Teach For Kids

17. Make a recycled verb shaker

Plastic bottle labeled Verb Shaker with word cards

This is a homemade version of an “I Spy” game. Bury verb cards in a plastic bottle filled with colored rice, then have students find verbs and use them in sentences or provide the different tenses.

Learn more: Crazy Speech World

18. Color in the tenses

Color the Tense printable worksheet with stars containing verbs in different tenses

We’ll take any reason to break out the crayons! Grab this free printable at the link.

Learn more: Terrific Times in Third/TPT

19. Display verb tenses in a simple chart

Colorful chart labeled 12 Verb Tenses in English

We often don’t realize how much it helps to know the names of the different tenses until we’re studying a new language and trying to conjugate its verbs. A chart like this one for English verbs can be very helpful in learning the concept.

Learn more: English Grammar Here

20. Play verb tenses Battleship

Battleship grid with I You He She It We They across the top and various activities down the side (Verb Tenses)

The beauty of this game is that you can play it over and over again using different tenses! Players plant their “ships” on the board. Each player takes turns saying a sentence using the chosen tense: “You will listen to music tomorrow.” The other player indicates hit or miss, just as in traditional Battleship.

Learn more: iSL Collective

Love this? Try these 19 Parts of Speech Activities That Will Up Your Grammar Game.

Plus, chat with other teachers to find out how they cover verb tenses and other grammar topics on the WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.

20 Clever Ideas and Activities for Teaching Verb Tenses