6 Ways to Energize Students When You Are on Empty

6 Ways to Energize Students When You Are on Empty

Devon Reeser
by Devon Reeser 12,344 views |

Have you run out of energy and have no idea how to get through to your next break?

Do you wake up sometimes and just feel too tired to teach? It happens to us all – ESL teaching requires injecting large doses of enthusiasm into classroom environments to engage students, and we as teachers sometimes do not have enough gas to get through class. For those times when you are on empty, try one of these ways to have an energized class without using your energy.

Try These 6 Ways to Energize Your Students When You Are on Empty

  1. 1

    Guest Speaker

    Recruit help! Even if you live in the remotest corner of the globe, you can probably find someone in your community that speaks some English and has volunteer time.

    • Ask a senior citizen to come to class and have a question and answer about “what it was like when you were young”. Have students prepare questions beforehand if they are beginners or pre-intermediate.
    • Ask a college student interested in teaching to come talk about her major or her home town. You can enlist a group of them at the beginning of the semester and set a schedule before the class even commences!
    • Ask a volunteer worker, doctor, or other foreigner that lives near your community or is visiting to come to class. They will have had an interesting life if they have lived abroad and students can Q and A after a brief presentation of their story.
    • Ask another ESL teacher to come to class and tell a personal story. Students may know the other teachers in their community, but they might not know personal details about them. Discovering a bit will be intriguing.
  2. 2

    Field Trip

    Go somewhere! Students will be energized just by leaving the class, and you can establish self-motivated activities beforehand so that you do not have to engage students.

    • Plan to go to an art or history museum that has English audio tours. Give students a list of short answer essays to complete using grammar you are practicing in class. You can take a nap in a dark corner while they tour!
    • If you live abroad in a developing country, send them anywhere: a school, a market, your house, etc. Turn them into amateur anthropologists by asking them to observe something about the surroundings. For example, they might go to their high school every day, but did they ever observe and describe how teachers dress or what color paints are used in different class levels?
  3. 3

    Community or Online Interviews

    Send them to talk to people if a speaker cannot come to class!

    • If you live in an English speaking country or have a number of English speaking friends and colleagues, you can warn them ahead of time that students will visit with a list of questions depending on their learning level. For beginners, make it simple such as “how many children do you have”. Pick suspects that live close by your classroom space.
    • Send them to local businesses such as banks, supermarkets, restaurants, etc. with a list of interview questions about the business. They can ask cashiers or customer service representatives “how many clients do you have”, “how many people work here”, etc.
    • If you do not live in an English speaking country, but you have access to computers (or even just one you can project), set up online interviews via Skype. Enlist friends back home or have them call randomly selected 1-800 numbers and talk to customer service representatives.
  4. 4

    Scavenger Hunt

    Send them to look for things to practice vocabulary!

    • If they have cell phones and/or digital cameras, give them a list of vocabulary words and send them to a place where they can take pictures of the words. If you are studying foods, for example, send them to a supermarket to take pictures of eggplant, bread, eggs, etc.
    • Have a traditional hunt where you give riddles or clues to students in pairs and have them search for the next clues until they get to the finish. For example, if you are working with beginners, give them a riddle, “What is blue and red and white and flies?” Hide the next clue at the closest American flag.
  5. 5

    Make Them Teach

    The oldest trick in the book is to make students give presentations at the end of the semester so you do not have to teach. Presentations are often boring for all other students (and you), however, so make it energizing for the whole class by assigning teaching presentations. You do not even need to plan in advance!

    • If you are tired one day, right before class copy or print off short readings. These only need to be three or four sentences. They can be news snippets from Yahoo or Google if you are in a rush. Have students work in pairs or groups of three to read the snippet and then design three discussion questions. Each group should go to the front of the class in turns, read the passage, and ask their classmates the questions.
    • Alternatively, they can pick out five vocabulary words that they do not know from short passages and teach the words to the rest of the class. The other students can compete to put the words into sentences!
  6. 6


    It might seem counter-intuitive to have a party when you have no energy, but it works very well if you have one that requires no planning and in which you do not have to participate.

    • If this option is available to you, find another teacher that is on empty energy with which to conspire. Buy simple party snacks on your way to class, like cookies and soda. When you get to class, tell students that you are going to have a mingling party with other ESLers and give them a list of mingling questions to ask at least five students from the other class, depending on their learning level. Come back together as a group when you have at least 20 minutes of class time left and gossip about the other group.
    • You can emulate the same activity if you have a large enough class by separating your students into two groups. Instead of discussing as a class afterwards, ask the groups to come to consensus about who is most interesting in the other group based on a set of criteria, such as “can play multiple musical instruments” and “has travelled to more than one other country”.

If you have no energy but still need to energize your students, do not panic or run to the coffee pot!

You can throw together an alternative class in which your personal participation is minimal and students use their own energy instead of zapping yours. You might even find yourself recharging from them for a change!

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