When did you last ...?

This activity gives elementary level students plenty of opportunity to speak and practise using the past simple.

Stuart Wiffin


  • Write a When did you last ...? question on the board, for example:
    • When did you last go to a restaurant?
    • When did you last go the park?
    • When did you last go to the cinema?
    • When did you last go on holiday?
    • When did you last go shopping?
    • When did you last visit a relative?
  • Draw a line all the way down the board to the right of this in which you can write vocabulary and phrases that students ask you for during the activity. 
  • Throw the question open to the whole class and write up time phrases that students need in your vocabulary part of the board, e.g. last week, two weeks ago, in March, on my birthday, etc. 
  • Ask students what other questions you could ask about this event. For example, for the restaurant they might say:
    • Which restaurant did you go to?
    • Who did you go with?
    • What did you eat?
    • Did you like it?
    • Did you have dessert?
    • What did you talk about?
  • Build up a list of as many questions as you can on the board.
  • Once you have a good number of questions on the board, group students into two or threes and ask them to ask and answer questions together. 
  • Tell them they don't need to write anything as the aim of this activity is speaking practice. Monitor as the students speak but don't interrupt. 
  • Focus on students' use of the past simple and make a note of any problems or mistakes. As students ask you for help with vocabulary and phrases write these up on the board in your vocabulary section.
  • Bring students back together after about ten minutes and go through any difficulties that you picked up with the use and form of the past simple during monitoring.
  • Move students round to form new pairs or groups of threes and give each group another When did you last …? question.
  • Give students a time limit, say five or ten minutes, depending on how easily they can work with the target language, and ask them to write as many questions as they can think of for the situation they've been given. The teacher moves round the groups helping and correcting the questions. Make sure all students in the group write the questions as they will need them later.
  • Change students into new groups and tell them to ask their questions and this time to write down the answers. Again you can monitor and write up the vocabulary that students need.
  • At this stage students return to the group in which they wrote their questions and compare the answers they received. After a few minutes the teacher can go over any further past simple matters that came up during monitoring.


  • Every student now has a set of answers to the questions they wrote before. They could use these to write a short text in the past simple either in class or at home.
Language Level


Submitted by jvl narasimha rao on Sun, 12/06/2009 - 02:38


Dear Wiffin,

I think this will be a good activity even for secondary students in countries like India where english is taught as a second language.teaching grammar for the sake grammar is boring.but most teachers adapt grammar teanslation method as it is easy for both the teachers and the taught.Activities like these will not only create enthusiasm among the students but also improve their vocabulary too.infact grammar and vocabulay are the skeleton and blood of language. thanks a lot for your creative activity.

I am eagerly waiting for your comments.

with kind regards,


Submitted by Mohammad2010 on Sun, 12/06/2009 - 11:44


Dear Stuart Wiffin your idea is too good, teaching english is very hard specially in the Middle East beacuse I live there and I'm an Arabian man and I know how the problems that the English student faces in their studying so they need for a new style of teaching in order to respond to the language as well as they can.




Submitted by Peter Simon on Wed, 12/09/2009 - 10:33


Dear Stuart,

Alas, quite some students of 14 in my last school (in Hungary) would be bored to death during such activities unless they were allowed to contribute questions like "when did you last f... sb?" Warning them about proper topics was counter-productive to doing any work. The main problem nowadays seems to be not how we do things but their areas of interest, which for the last part does not seem to have anything nearly close to the interests of even the most widely interested teacher of English.

They are almost exclusively interested in sex, drinking (or drugs sometimes) and internet games. No family, no holidays, no language, no adventures of the mind or intellect, only one-and-only, narrow type of music ... I was almost bored to death too so I quit. Great deterioration of the world of young people in the last few years. Honestly, such activities work only in the quietest of places where they can still be respectful of their elders and the outside world in general. I wonder what my respected friends in Asia feel about this. I first had these feelings mildly in China about 8 years ago, sorry.

Sounds like Hungarian students are a bit of a handful. Where are you teaching now? Is it going better? My experience is mostly in Western Europe with a bit of Sri Lanka thrown in, so it's interesting to hear how it goes, or would go, in other countries.

Stuart Wiffin

Submitted by tarekabdalaziz on Wed, 12/16/2009 - 21:26


I think this will be very useful and interesting

Thank you, sir

Submitted by JulietteDSC on Thu, 04/15/2010 - 00:22


This is a fairly easy yet effective method, because it engages the students in every day activities that will be the backbone of their vocabulary. Its a great idea and one that I will definitely use in the classroom.

Submitted by Janineturner on Fri, 05/21/2010 - 04:44


It really does work, not only for my kids, but myself! I am learning spanish along with my children and it really helps to have that back-and-forth conversation where you are not repeating something from a book, and all saying the same thing.


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