Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8, K-3

In the BrainPOP ELL movie, History of Trains (L3U3L5), Moby plans to sell a toy train at Ben’s garage sale. But when Ben expresses interest in it and shares his deep knowledge of trains, Moby offers it to him for free. In this lesson plan, adaptable for grades K-8, students practice different ways to express the past tense including the past simple, present perfect, present perfect progressive, and past perfect tenses.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Agree or disagree with statements about the movie in an anticipation guide. (Content Objective)
  2. Construct questions to match short answers using perfect tenses. (Language Objective)
  3. Listen for and complete sentences with examples of the perfect tenses. (Language Objective)
  4. Relate personal stories that connect to the movie content. (Content Objective)
  5. Compare two types of trains on a Venn Diagram. (Content Objective)


Transport/transportation, power/powerful, electricity/electric, engine, steam, steam engine, heat, magnet, track, passenger
Past simple, present perfect, present perfect progressive, past perfect, past participle


For Activity 1, Before, During, and After, add statements to the Anticipation Guide about the history of trains, using information from the movie, and make copies. Some suggested statements are:
At first, trains were used to transport things, not people.
When the steam engine was first invented, people rushed to buy tickets.
The first trains were electric.
Today, there are trains that don’t have wheels.

Make copies of the Past Tense Short Answer Cards
Make copies of the lyrics of songs for the cloze listening activity below, and for the activity you create.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Before, During, and After. Before watching the movie History of Trains (L3U3L5), have students independently complete the Before column of the Anticipation Guide. During the movie, instruct students to check the answers. After the movie, have them complete the After column, and discuss if their answers are different. Find out more about using Anticipation Guides here.
  2. Garage Sale. The movie History of Trains (L3U3L5) opens with Ben and Moby at a garage sale. To activate prior knowledge, ask students if they have ever been to a garage sale, or if they have ever had one, and to share a story.
  3. Trains and Me. The movie History of Trains (L3U3L5) provides a brief history of trains. Have students practice the grammar of this unit (the perfect tenses) while talking about their experience with trains. Provide prompts, such as:
    Have you ever taken a long train ride?
    Have you ever ridden the subway?
    I had never taken a train before my family traveled across the country on a train.
    I’ve taken the subway to school every day since I was 10 years old.
    My parents have always traveled by train to work, but I’ve never taken the train.
    I’ve been riding trains my whole life, but I’ve never ridden a bicycle.
  4. Short Answers. Divide the class into small groups and provide each group with four or five of the Past Tense Short Answer Cards. Have them work together to think of a question for each answer. You can instruct them to make questions only about the movie, about a specific theme, or any general questions. Provide a model:
    Answer card: Yes, I have.
    Question: Have you eaten breakfast yet?
    Each group then reads their questions and answers to the class, and the whole class decides if they use the perfect tenses correctly, and correct any errors.

Extension Activities

Have students compare two types of trains on a Venn Diagram.

Create a listening activity, such as a cloze or gap-fill, with songs that use the perfect tenses. Have students fill in the missing words first. Then again while they listen to the song. Students can also sequence events that happen in the songs, using the tenses as clues, or create a storyboard of the events in the songs. Some examples of songs are:

Present Perfect

We Are the Champions - Queen
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For – U2

Present Perfect Progressive

I've Been Working on the Railroad – American folk song
Since I’ve Been Loving You - Led Zeppelin
That Girl - Stevie Wonder

Past Perfect

Before I Met You - Dolly Parton
I Thought I’d Seen Everything - Bryan Adams


BrainPOP ELL Movies

Have They Forgotten (L3U3L1)
Mount Everest (L3U3L2)
April Fools’ Day (L3U3L3)
I Had Overslept! (L3U3L4)


Railroad History
Industrial Revolution
Westward Expansion