30 Activities for Teaching Verb Tense—Past, Present, and Future

Practice makes future perfect!

paper verb activity and students in a line to make a sentence
We Are Teachers

Let’s face it, most of us don’t need to know which verb tense is “future continuous perfect.” But we do need to use verbs correctly. Most children pick up verb tenses as they learn to speak, but there is some advantage to understanding and being able to name tenses, especially when it comes to irregular verbs or learning a new language. We’ve compiled a list of 30 great and easy activities to teach and practice verb tenses.

First, let’s review all 12 (yes 12!) English verb tenses.

30 Verb Tense Activities

notecards with verb tenses written on them and paper dolls
Our Fun Homeschool

1. Build verb tents (get it?)

Set up “verb tents” to learn about verb tense. This smart play on words turns playtime fun into a learning activity.

Get tutorial: Verb Tents

paper craft with verb tense words on colored sheets of paper
Buggy for Second Grade

2. Verb tense rainbows

Knowing proper tenses makes the world a more colorful place! Kids add sentences for the past, present, and future tense of any verb they choose.

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Get tutorial: Verb Tenses Craft

cards with stick figures on them and conjugated verbs for verb tense activity
Activity Tailor

3. Conjugate and move

As you go from one place to another (out to recess, down the hall to lunch), have students pick different movements to complete. Use those in sentences for practice: “We are going to march. We are marching. We marched to the playground.”

In the classroom, have students choose cards with past, present, and future actions on them and act them out.

Get tutorial: In-tense Fun

sticky notes that are sorted by verb tense on an anchor chart
Smitten With First

4. Sort sticky notes

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

Get tutorial: Verb Tenses

purple paper with white strips of paper with verb tense examples
The First Grade Round Up

5. Identify incorrect usage

Sometimes it can be just as helpful to see and hear what’s incorrect as what’s correct. Try this sorting activity, or allow kids to come up with their own examples.

Get tutorial: Verb Tense Sorts

lego bricks with verbs written on them to match in verb tense activity
The OT Toolbox

6. Match LEGO bricks

What kid doesn’t love an excuse to play with LEGO bricks? 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!

Get tutorial: Irregular Verb Activity With LEGO

paper chain with sentences with helping verbs for verb tense activity
Ashleigh’s Education Journey

7. Link sentences with helping verbs

This is a terrific visual to show kids how helping verbs actually link sentences together. Cut strips of sentences and have students link two parts of a sentence with the correct verb tense.

Get tutorial: Linking & Helping Verbs

bracelet with verb tenses written on them
Lindy Loves To Teach

8. Time travel with verb tense wristbands

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: Verb Tenses Time Machine Armbands

dice with verb tenses on it for verb tense activity
Ashleigh’s Education Journey

9. Verb dice

Get some helping-verb practice by rolling these DIY cubes. Students roll the cubes, then write sentences with the correct verb tenses shown. Here are printable dice templates to use with this activity.

Get tutorial: Action and Helping Verb Cubes

verb timeline for verb tense activity
Upper Elementary Snapshots

10. Use timelines

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

kids lined up holding cards with words on them for a verb tense activity
Longwing Learning

11. Form human sentences

Pass out cards with words, including verbs, on them and have kids line up to form a present-tense sentence. Then change the tense by switching a card (and student) to make a new sentence. You can talk about when we change the verb tense, what other parts of a sentence might have to change?

Get free printable: Regular Verb Tenses at Teachers Pay Teachers

mini book of verb tenses
Teacher Thrive

12. Verb tense booklet

Give your students a booklet they can refer to as they practice verb tenses. Combine these booklets with the timeline activity to reinforce how verbs show when activities happen.

Get free printables: Teaching Simple Verb Tenses

tap lights with arrows to show if a verb is past present or future tense
Speech Time Fun

13. Tap lights

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.

Get tutorial: Tap Light Ideas

Buy it: Tap lights for less than $25 at Amazon

child and adult hand slapping a pile of cards
Deceptively Educational

14. Play Slap It! with 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.

Get tutorial: Slap It! Irregular Past Tense Verbs Game

verb tense flash cards
Amazon

15. Work with flash cards

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

Buy it: Junior Learning Verb Flashcards

story with blanks where verbs should be
iSL Collective

16. Use stories

Have kids study a picture and tell a story about what they see. Set the story in the past, present, or future. Start with this story about people in a city talking about what they did yesterday.

Get printable: The Past Simple Tense With a Picture

materials for a verb tense spinner game
The Curriculum Corner

17. Spin and write

Using a pencil and paper clip 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.

Get tutorial: Perfect Verb Tense Activity

helping verbs song lyrics
I Teach for Kids

18. Helping verbs song

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: Help, Help, Helping Verbs!

bottle with verb shaker text on the front for a verb tense activity
Crazy Speech World

19. Verb shaker

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.

Get tutorial: Verb Shaker

stars with words in them on a worksheet
Terrific Times in Third

20. Color the tenses

We’ll take any reason to break out the crayons! Have students color stars different colors depending on the verb tense.

Get free printable: Verb Tenses Freebie at Teachers Pay Teachers

chart with verb tenses on it past present and future and examples
English Grammar Here

21. Display a chart

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: 12 Verb Tenses in English

battleship game paper to play using verb tenses
iSL Collective

22. Verb tense battleship

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.

Get printable: Verb Tense Battleship

list of irregular verbs
Elementary Nest

23. Irregular verbs

Don’t forget irregular verbs. Help students use irregular verbs in writing assignments with an anchor chart or table students can keep in their binders.

Learn more: Tips for Teaching Verb Tenses

verb anchor chart using arrows
The First Grade Roundup

24. Use arrows

Use arrows to reinforce when in time verbs are referring to. This handy anchor chart can serve as a reference, or use the arrows to reinforce tense.

Learn more: Verb Tense Sorts

brainstorm worksheet with circles and space to write a topic and verbs
Ashleigh’s Education Journey

25. Create verb tense webs

Give students a topic, or have them brainstorm their own, then they think of verbs that go with that topic. Have students think of present, past, or future tense verbs to go with each topic.

Learn more: Identifying Verbs

story with verbs missing
Cheat Sheets for My Speech Peeps

26. Fill in the blank

Create stories that require students to fill in the blank with conjugated verbs (or download this free resource). It’s also an opportunity to build vocabulary and fluency.

Get free printable: Irregular Past Tense Verb Mad Lib

game that students can play to practice verb tenses
Lucky Little Learners

27. Verb tense four-in-a-row

Play a game of four-in-a-row with verb tenses. Students roll a di and complete the verb tense task. If they win the square, they win the square. When they have four in a row, they win the game.

Learn more: Verb Tense Connect 4

verb tense sort activity with verbs to cut and sort
The Moffatt Girls via Pinterest

28. Verb sort

Once students are into independent practice, use a sorting activity to have them practice various verb tenses.

Learn more: Rainy Day Verb Tenses

examples from a verb tense game
CSL via Teachers Pay Teachers

29. Verb tense game

Have students practice choosing the correct verb tense with a game like this one from CSL on Teachers Pay Teachers. Or have students make their own verb tense game.

Buy it: Verb Tenses Game for less than $5 at Teachers Pay Teachers

black and white drawings of children doing various actions
Charming Corner Shop via Etsy

30. Work with mini-books

Create a mini-book and use that as a reference for students as they learn and practice verb tenses. This is especially helpful for English language learners.

Buy it: Minibook for less than $5 at Etsy

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

Plus, chat with other teachers in the We Are Teachers HELPLINE group on Facebook to find out how they cover verb tenses.

Verb tenses are one of those key skills for mastery of any language, but some are harder than others. These activities make it easier.