By Kevin Fabris

August 9, 2017

5 - 10 Minutes, Adult, Easy ESL Games,, EFL, ESL, Fun, Game, High School, No Materials Required, past tense, Practice It, simple past tense, Speaking, Use It, Word Game

Fortunately/Unfortunately is an awesome ESL game for teaching the simple past tense.  It requires listening, speaking and a lot of creativity.

The Details:

  • There are no materials required.
  • You can play with between 2 and 10 participants.
  • A game should take between 5 and 15 minutes depending on your classes size and ability.

How To use Fortunately/Unfortunately to teach the simple past tense:

  1. Pre-teach the words fortunately and unfortunately.
  2. Divide your class into 2 teams: Optimists & Pessimists.
  3. Tell your team of optimists that it’s their duty to always look on the bright side of things.  They must begin every sentence with the word “fortunately”.
  4. Conversely, your team of pessimists must always see the negative side of every situation.  They have to start every sentence with the word “unfortunately”.
  5. The teacher starts by making a random statement about something that happened earlier in the day, e.g., ” I talked to a famous actor at lunch today”.
  6. Then the optimists must then expand on the story by adding an extra detail about talking to the famous person while using the simple past tense, e.g.,  “fortunately, they looked really cool”.
  7. The pessimists must then add the next link to the story, e.g.,  “unfortunately,  they smelled really bad”.
  8. The process continues until one team cannot think of an appropriate response.  Depending on how the game is going you can either restart the game with a new story or end the activity.

Here’s an example of Fortunately/Unfortunately that my students used in class (I’ve edited out the mistakes).

Teacher: I saw Tom Cruz at the lunch today.

Optimists:  Fortunately, he looked really handsome.

Pessimists: Unfortunately, he didn’t speak to me.

Optimists:  Fortunately, he smiled at me.

Pessimists: Unfortunately, he kicked me in the leg.

Optimists:  Fortunately, it didn’t hurt.

This ESL game has little to no structure.  It’s fun, crazy and gets everyone talking while practicing the past tense.


If you think that this ESL story chain is a great way of teaching the simple past tense you’ll love this game as well.

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