Communicative Activity for Verb Tenses: “The People in Your Neighborhood”

(Originally published in my book Brainstorming. Moscow: Manager, 2001. This is an updated version.)

Language Focus: Contrasting the simple present and present progressive tenses.                   

Level: Low to high intermediate.        

Format: Whole class.                                                                                                                                     

Objective: To talk about one’s work so that the class can guess the speaker’s profession.


STEP 1: Make a list of professions on the board (one per student). Number the professions and randomly pass out numbers to the students on slips of paper. The class has five minutes to prepare 3-4 sentences about their assigned professions. They must assume their roles and speak in the first person. The teacher may assist and/or edit as needed. At least one sentence must be in the simple present (fact, general truth, habitual action). At least one sentence must be in the present progressive (about the present moment).

MODEL: (actor) “I live in Hollywood. Right now I’m working on a TV show, so I’m very busy. I really want to be in films.”

STEP 2: Students take turns speaking to the class. If necessary, the teacher can provide additional clues using the simple present or present progressive to help the class guess the speaker’s profession.

STEP 3: (optional) Students can do a similar assignment at home. They can write about themselves, a friend, or a relative.

MODEL: My father is a lawyer. He works in a large firm. At the present, he is working on a divorce case.


  • If done in pairs, hand out lists A and B (approx. 3 professions per list). Student A and Student B take turns assuming roles and providing clues until their partner guesses their profession.
  • If done in small groups, place role cards face down in a pile in the center of the group. Clockwise, students take turns drawing cards and assuming roles.
  • If done with more advanced students, you may increase the difficulty by including practice of the present perfect tense. New model: (actor) “I live in Hollywood. Right now I’m working on a TV show, so I’m very busy. I’ve had small roles in films, but I’ve never been the star of a movie.”



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