Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8

In the BrainPOP ELL movie Action! (L3U6L1), Ben and Moby make a movie about their school. The two are having so much fun reminiscing about their school days, that they don’t realize the mistake they’ve made. What is it? Watch to find out, and be sure to listen for the expression used to. In this lesson plan, adaptable for grades 3-8, students practice using the expression used to in listening, speaking, and writing activities.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Describe pictures using the past expression used to.
  2. Write a passage describing past activities using the expression used to.
  3. Differentiate between the two meanings of the expression used to.



used to, be used to, get used to, invention
Multiple meaning expression: used to


For Activity 1, How Did Life Used to Be?, gather images of well known inventions.
For Activity 4, Songs with Used to, prepare a cloze activity and make copies for the class.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. How Did Life Use to Be? Display pictures of inventions and have students choose one. Alternatively, assign students or small groups to research inventions for homework. Have them bring in a picture of the invention to share with the class and be prepared to describe how life used to be before the invention. Remind students to pay attention to the negative and question forms. For example: People used to ride horses. They didn’t use to drive cars. Did everyone use to own horses?
  2. I Used To… Write the prompt “I used to …” on the board, and have students do a Quick Write activity. You can swap out the pronoun I with you, he, she, we, etc. Encourage them to write a poem, song, or story.
  3. “Used to” as an Adjective. Point out to students that when we use the expression be used to or get used to as an adjective, it means that something has become familiar, and isn’t strange or new anymore. Put some examples on the board and ask students to explain their meanings. Some examples are:

    I am used to my new school now.
    I will never get used to this cold weather.
    Are you used to your new phone yet?

    Point out that with this meaning, the form is always used to, even in negative sentences and questions.

    Ask students to think of sentences using be or get used to that are true about themselves. This may be done as a Roundrobin exercise.

    Show the Used to section of the Grammar movie for more explanations and examples of its two meanings. Then ask students to find the four examples of used to in the movie Action! (L3U6L1), and identify the meaning of each. The four examples are: We’re used to the school. I also remember when we used to draw pictures just like these. This chair, which is way too small for me now, is where I used to sit. They practice a lot, so they get used to exercising every day.
  4. Songs with Used to. Prepare a listening activity, such as a cloze/gap-fill, with a song that uses the expression used to. Have students fill in the missing words first. Then do the exercise again while they listen to the song. Some examples of songs are:

    We Used to Wait – Arcade Fire
    Used to - Chris Daughtry
    Used to Be - We Are the Grand
    The Way We Used to Be - Eric Carmen
    Used to – Ilya
    Bad Brain – The Ramones
    Viva la Vida – Coldplay
    Somebody that I Used to Know – Gotye
    Hurtful – Erik Hassle
    Mama Used to Say – Junior
    This Used to Be My Playground – Madonna