As much as some of us try to forget our past, as English teachers we are confronted with it regularly. Teaching the past tense to EFL students can be challenging. Here is a suggestion to keep your lesson plans interesting: think about the last time you were interrogated by the police.

Tell your EFL students that a teacher was kidnapped last night and their class stands accused.

Choose two students to be the detectives, and put the rest into pairs. Tell the pairs that together they must create an alibi. While they are working on their stories in English, explain to the detectives that they will be asking each group very detailed questions about their nights. This will involve quick thinking and creativity.

After groups have finished creating their alibis, select one pair and send one of the partners out of the room. Now sit the other partner in front of the detectives and let them interrogate away. The accused will have to tell the story they devised, while also answering detailed follow-up questions from the detectives.

Accused 1: “We went to a restaurant.”

Detective 1: “What color hair did your server have?”

Accused 1: “He had red hair.”

Detective 2: “How long did you have to wait for a table?”

Accused 1: “We waited 10 minutes.”

After sufficient grilling, bring in the partner from the hall and let the detectives ask the same questions.

Accused 2: “We went to a restaurant.”

Detective 1: “What color hair did your server have?”

Accused 2: “She had blonde hair.”

Detective 2: “How long did you have to wait for a table?”

Accused 2: “We didn’t wait.”

The class can vote for the best and worst alibis.

Here’s another lesson plan idea to practice the past perfect: select four activities you did yesterday and write them on the board in random order. Have the students figure out the correct chronological order by asking you questions.

“By the time you went to the supermarket, had you already finished reading your book?”

“No, when I went to the supermarket, I hadn’t yet finished my book.”

After a few questions, the clever students will be able to put them in chronological order.