The ABC of ELT

ELT Lesson Idea: TimeHop

Timehop app lesson idea

There’s a great deal of irony in me posting this blog post. I actually wrote it over two years ago (maybe three years ago). I discovered this draft today and so I thought I’d go ahead and share it now. You’ll see the irony once you get into the post. I’ve added some extra notes showing some updates since I wrote the post (turns out things change over time, who knew).

Recently I discovered a fun little app that I found myself telling everyone about. When I find an app like this, I naturally start to wonder if there is a way to use it for teaching English. After all, if something is generally interesting then it can be a motivating topic for students. So let me give you a brief overview of timehop.


Timehop is a little app that takes you back in time to this day x years ago. When you plug in your social media accounts then timehop will let show you what you shared on this day back in time. You can connect Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare and your photo gallery.

On a personal level, it’s really nice to revisit what you shared and remember where you were and what you were doing on this day X years ago.

Sometimes you are reminded of a great blog post, sometimes a profound quote and sometimes you remember being somewhere with some people.

[Update: The app has added some new features like comparing the past with now. You can see how people and places have changed over time.]

Grammar Points

Obviously, this is a great app for a couple of past tenses. The most obvious being “past continuous”. “What were you doing this time last year?” (you also get some nice adverbs of time like “this time last year” etc)

Then there is the option to ask the students if these activities are typical for them with “Used to” or “would”. This opens up past habits and reflecting on how their lives have changed since this point in time.

Finally, students can compare their experiences with other students using the present perfect.

[Update: The newer comparisons feature allows you to work on phrases of comparison. It can also be useful for exam classes to practice the comparing phrases they’ll use in an exam like FCE]

Vocabulary points

This is difficult to say as it depends what they take photos of but often we share images of ourselves doing activities. This means that there is the potential for some nice verb phrases to come up.

Suggested lesson plan

  1. Intro – discuss different social media service and which you use and why.
  2. Do you ever look at your old social media posts?
  3. What were you doing a year ago?
  4. Give out instructions on how to install the app on students devices and let them set it up. Give the task to install the app and ask “What were you doing this time last year, two years ago etc” [listen for good and bad example, write up some examples on the board]
  5. Feedback on what students were doing x years ago. Write on the board some examples of good and bad grammar and vocabulary.
  6. Students identify mistakes from the example sentences identify the present continuous pattern.
  7. Rearrange groups and get students to feedback on what their old patterns were doing X years ago.
  8. Extension: hand out discussion questions “Was this a one of or regular activity? Do you still do it now? Have any people in your group ever done this activity?”
  9. Final activity: Create a social media entry for today and share it.

Any other ideas?

What do you think about timehop? How could you use it in a lesson?

About Chris Wilson

I'm an English Language teacher based in Krakow, Poland. I enjoy writing, using technology and playing the Ukulele.

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