Playing with the simple past tense..watching the world go by!

As the children move further through their language learning in KS2, there are times when they want to explain or describe simply a past event.

In Year 6 there is an ideal learning situation linked to one of the focuses of the JLN SOW  ...... the cafe!



In Year 6 we look at  café culture and one of the wonderful things I enjoy about café culture abroad is the way you don;t rush .... you sit.... and you watch the World go by!



Think of all those times when we sit in cafés and watch the world go by and observe the actions and interactions of the people we see sit down at a table and order a drink or food then leave!

The past tense focus will be in this instance on the phrase "il y avait ...." / había......./ es gab...."

To accomplish the final task of "Watching the world go by" we firstly will need to practise the core language.(You may decide to spread this across a sequence of lessons).  

Activity One:Stepping in and out of the picture

  • Introduce and practise the present tense and past tense verbal phrase for "there is/are " and "there was/were" in the target language.
  • Ask the children to freeze frame if you say the past tense phrase and to move and be active if you say the present tense phrase
  • Discuss with the children why they think you asked them to freeze frame or to move and be active. Discuss with the children the concept of the past and an event having happened that is now a memory and a picture. 
  • Discuss with the children the concept of the present and an event that is still happening and is active before your very eyes!
  • Can the children use the two phrases and play the same game of freeze frame or moving with a partner. Hold "listen and watch ins" and see if the children are responding correctly to the two phrases in the present and the past.
Activity Two: Time travellers and stopping time!


  • Ask the children to walk around the room and be active, talking to each other and asking each other questions in the target language until they hear you call the apprppriate past tense phrase :"il y a avait ...." / había......./ es gab..."Now they must freeze exactly where they are and hold there action until you say the present tense phrase. You may decide to say the past tense phrase over and over again and try to catch them out ..... they mustn't move!
  • You can generate a game here to see which children are the best time travellers - if the children move to soon , they must sit down. Who will be the last children standing?
  • Once they hear the present tense phrase then the children can carry on their conversation and move around the room...until they must freeze frame and travel back in time again.

Activity Three: Spot the difference and step back in time!


  • Show the children a picture of the classroom yesterday  - in black and white. Explain that in the picture you have added items- a bag, a book,a picture  et that are not in the classroom today. Can the children spot the difference? They will need to describe the room to do using the present tense phrase and the room yesterday using the past tense phrase. Provide the children with bilingual dictionaries in case they can not recall certain key nouns they need .  
The main event .....watching the world go by.


  • Working in groups of the three ,ask the children to create their café role plays .they must order two drinks and a snack and the children must take the roles of a waiter and two customers. Each of the customers must have a character e.g a mum and a child or an old man and an old woman  or be creative a monster and a child etc.
  • The class must "Watch the World go by" and listen and watch the role plays as the children volunteer to perform them for the class.
  • Can the class report back in spoken form what they saw and understood- using the past tense phrase?
 For example "There was an old man and a child and a waiter.There were two drinks. There was a coffee and a lemonade. There was also a piece of chocolate cake with cream"
  • Now listen to and watch a new role play and ask the class to observe and report back how the scene changes yet again!