Activating grammar with grids

Activating grammar with grids

Simple grid technique that can easily be adapted
This is a very simple idea that I have been using for many years. It is ideal for practicing some important grammar structures like the present simple and the past. It also makes use of the Clip Art that is provided in Microsoft Word.

Teaching Grammar
This activity is great for practicing grammar. It uses the idea of a ‘gap fill grid’ where each student has different information. It is what we call a ‘Semi Controlled Activity’ as it is not pure repetition but it is quite controlled.

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Grids can be used for lots of things but this idea is particularly useful as it is quite flexible. There are two grids and each one has different information. In the example below we are practicing the question

What time does/do+ person + verb?

However you could also use the same grid to practice the questions in the past simple too. Notice how easy it was for me to make this grid. I simply took some pictures from the CLIP ART in Microsoft Word and then placed them in the top of the grid. I then simply added some times. So this controlled practice exercise will practice 3 different things

  • The question form in the present using What time
  • Telling the time ( O’ clock and half past in this case)
  • The use of ‘s’ in third person questions

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Put the students into pairs. One student gets grid A and one student gets grid B. Make sure they are facing each other and that they can’t see each other’s grid.

Now quickly go through the pictures and make sure the students understand what they represent.

Have breakfast

Go to work

Prepare lunch

Watch television

Now get two of the students to do an example to the rest of the class to make the activity clear ( or you can do an example with one of the students). I suggest that the students complete their table one row at a time but if you want students can take turns to ask/answer questions.


Student A: What time dos Mary have breakfast?

Student B: She has breakfast at 7 o clock

Student A: What time dos Mary start work?

Student B: She starts work at 9 o clock

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Now the students can start to do the activity. I tend to move around and listen and occasionally help if one of the students is having a lot of trouble but I prefer to take notes and then go over any problems at the end. This exercise practices both he/she and they, so it is good for practicing the 3rd person.

Adapting this idea

This idea can be adapted really easily. You could use this same grid to practice the past simple. So for example


Student A: What time did Mary have breakfast?

Student B: She had breakfast at 7 o clock

You could also just change the pictures and practice a completely different set of verbs. I have made many of these grids to practice activities around sport, work, hobbies, being at home. It doesn’t have to be the time either. You could simple do one where you information is Yes/No by simply adding ticks and crosses under the pictures instead of times.


A very flexible but simple way of getting students to practice question forms/answers that is a real information gap activity. This idea can easily be adapted and used for both the present tense and the past tense and you can easily change the pictures to practice different verbs.


Russell Stannard


Russell Stannard is the founder of TeacherTrainingVideos.Com and the Associate Trainer at NILE. He was the previous winner of the Times Higher ‘Outstanding Technology Initiative’, the British Council ‘Technology Innovation Award’ and the University of Westminster ‘Excellence in Teaching Award.’ He trains teachers all over the world, especially in the use of technology in language teaching.