A perfect story

The present perfect is a tense that many students have problems with. Most course books provide only controlled grammar sentences where students choose the correct tense.

Jackie McAvoy

This activity leads students into writing a short story using the past simple, present perfect simple and continuous, but in a more creative way.


  • Tell the students they are going to write a short story.
  • Get the students to read the following questions and decide, with a partner, what the missing words are, but not answer the questions now.
  • Monitor well to check they understand the activity. There are no 'correct' answers, they should use their imagination.
  1. What is his / her name?
  2. What is __________ about them? (e.g. strange / unusual / nice...)
  3. What was their --problem last year?
  4. What happened?
  5. Why have they become so __________ ?
  6. How many __________ have they -__________ ?
  7. Who have they been __________ recently?
  8. What have they been __________ for the last five years?
  • Now the students, working in pairs still, have to answer the questions. The answers should link the questions together to form the basis of a story.
  • Next ask students to draw their characters. This is fun and brings the character to life. Students can laugh at each other's drawings.
  • Using the notes above, students put the story together. They can add more information if they wish but they should not make it complicated.
  • Students then swap their story with another pair to edit. They read the story and underline any errors they notice, or question any word or phrase they don't understand.
  • The stories are returned to their owners who make changes as necessary depending on the comments that were made by the editing pair.

By slowly guiding them through the stages the end result is their own and usually grammatically correct. Don't forget to ask students to read each others stories, they are sure to be amusing.

Language Level


Submitted by Mohamed Mahamud on Thu, 05/15/2014 - 10:53


This is a good way that students can improve their spellings and writing. Thanks British council.

Submitted by Derek Spafford on Sat, 02/20/2016 - 08:42


HI StarryNight can you let me know the specific problem you are having please. I can download the file where I am. could you try a different browser and see if that works. Many thanks Del

Submitted by Nukhfullakyzy Kausar on Fri, 05/04/2018 - 04:54


In fact this is a good lesson plan. Today I am going to give a class about the difference between the simple past and the present perfect and this class is going to be observed. i found your details and examples very useful to me. i think it will be more motivating if supported by pictures. thank you

Research and insight

We have hundreds of case studies, research papers, publications and resource books written by researchers and experts in ELT from around the world. 

See our publications, research and insight

Sign up to our newsletters for teachers and teacher educators

We will process your data to send you our newsletter and updates based on your consent. You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the "unsubscribe" link at the bottom of every email. Read our privacy policy for more information.