I like to use this activity to promote recognition and then practise the past continuous. It utilises a well known lateral thinking puzzle.

Derek Spafford


You will need:

  • one story, cut into strips, for each pair or group
  • one complete copy of the story per student
  • one copy of the grammar worksheet per student


  • Put students in pairs or groups and give out the cut up story. Ask students to put it in the correct order. You could give the first sentence to help. 
  • Set a time limit and then when finished ask students to walk around and look at each others' finished text.
  • Invite them to make changes if they wish.
  • Read the correct version of the text and then ask students to discuss the answer (the surgeon is the boy’s mother).
  • Now give out completed versions of the text and invite student to analyse the text for usage of the past continuous.
  • Students should now complete the grammar worksheet. 
  • Now separate the group into police officers and boy’s friend passengers.
  • Explain that the police officers are going to interview the boy’s friend to find out what happened.
  • Put the students into groups and set a time limit for students to come up with questions and answers depending on the group they are in. Encourage the police officers to ask other questions outside of the story to encourage communication. 
  • When ready, put the students together to conduct the interviews. 
  • Monitor and provide feedback when the activity is finished. 


Students could work together to write a newspaper article about the incident. You could also use more lateral thinking puzzles as the springboard for a discussion.

Language level
Language Level: 
Pre-intermediate: A2

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