Teaching the Passive Voice – A Lesson Idea

GUEST POST BY EVA, SARAH, THERESA & JANA (my trainee-teacher students).

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content interaction media used

time (min)

introduction Ask the learners what they know about the Romans in Britain – key words, facts, etc.  (Can also be done as think – pair – share) Student-teacher 5
working phase I Learners read text “Hadrian’s Wall” and underline unfamiliar grammatical constructions Individual work Text Hadrian’s Wall – worksheet 10
consolidation Collect and structure underlined phrases on the board. (T should write examples on board in a layout that enables a table to be drawn around them to demonstrate the patterns of forming the passive voice in various tenses. See below. Student-teacher BlackboardText Hadrian’s Wall 15
working phase II/consolidation II Controlled practice (gap filling exercise) Individual workStudent-teacher worksheet 8
Transfer(optional) Productive task (transferring from active to passive) Partner work Worksheet 7


Text: Hadrian’s Wall (click here for downloadable worksheet: Passive voice worksheet hadrians wall)

Hadrian’s Wall
In the year 122 AD, the Roman Emperor Hadrian visited his provinces in Britain.On his visit, the he was told by Roman soldiers that they had been attacked by Pictish tribes the weeks before. Many people were killed during the fights.So Hadrian gave the order to build a protective wall across one of the narrowest parts of the country. After 6 years of hard work, the Wall was finished in 128. It was 117 kilometres long and about 4 metres high. The Wall was guarded by 15,000 Roman soldiers who were told by the Emperor of Rome.If the Wall was attacked by enemies, the soldiers at the turrets ran to the nearest mile castle for help. In 383 Hadrian’s Wall was abandoned. Even today, Hadrian’s Wall is visited by a lot of people. In guided tours the tourists are shown the beauty of Hadrian’s Wall.


Consolidation: After examples from the text have been extracted and written on the board, the learners can be asked to figure out the pattern of how to build the passive voice. To make sure everyone has good notes, this information should be presented in writing on the board. It could look something like this:

is visited
was told
had been attacked
are shown
were killed
was finished
was guarded
was abandoned
  am/is/are +                                            was/were +                                  had been +
past participle                                    past participle                                    past participle


Then the controlled practice task asks learners to fill in the blanks in sentences by conjugating the verb given in brackets according to the pattern shown on the board.

Use the verbs to fill in the blanks – make sure you use the patterns you discovered in the text above.
  1. Hadrian’s Wall _____________________________ (to build) many centuries ago.
  2. During the construction years, many people ________________________ (to kill) because it was dangerous to build such a wall.
  3. After the wall _________________________________ (to finish) in 128, it ______________________________ (to use) to guard people from the Pictish tribes.
  4. Today, Hadrian’s Wall ____________________________ (to call) one of the most interesting Roman attractions in Great Britain.
  5. The beauty of Hadrian’s Wall _______________________________ (to show) to many people every day.

And finally, once the class has checked their answers to the gap-fill task together, the learners can complete a sentence transformation task to consolidate their knowlegde of the verb form:

Transfer these sentences into passive voice.
  1. The Roman Emperor Hadrian visited his provinces in ritain.
  2. Before that Pictish tribes killed a lot of people from the provinces.
  3. Hadrian gave the people the order to build a wall.
  4. Today, many tourist magazines mention Hadrian’s Wall as a famous attraction.

Of course, they will need further practice and productive tasks… but as a lesson that introduces the passive voice whilst focusing on an interesting topic, this lesson should provide the first step in this learning process!

4 thoughts on “Teaching the Passive Voice – A Lesson Idea

  1. The “by” construction should be mentioned, as pupils may well get into difficulties with the sentece transformation task.

    This lesson, although well-organized, seems rather sterile, as there is no visual material and nothing requiring listening skills. The former – and perhaps the latter, too – could be rectified by presenting a clip on Hadrian´s Wall as part of the introduction stage or asking them to find out for themselves via their internet anabled deives.


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