9 Five-Minute Activities That Will Save Your Lesson One Day (And Maybe Your Reputation, Too)
Teachers always need to have an activity or two on hand in case a lesson takes a little bit less time than expected or does not work out exactly as planned.
Some activities that work well in one class totally flop in another so you will have to be flexible with your lesson plan and able to adapt when necessary.
This guide provides some short activities for your class.
How to Proceed
Short Reading Activities
With a reading passage, you can conduct this short reading race to give students some more pronunciation, speaking, and even listening practice. Have students stand up and tell them that each column of students is a team. For this activity the first student should read the first sentence, the second student should read the next one, and students should continue reading sentences until the entire passage is complete and then sit down. The first team to read all the sentences and sit down wins. You can play again using the same passage starting with the student in the back or make each row a team instead. To help students make their reading sound more natural, introduce slash reading. To do slash reading, simply read the passage aloud to the class pausing when it is natural to do so while students repeat after you and make slashes or breaks in their text.
Short Writing Activities
Shiritoriis a Japanese game that has been adapted for ESL classrooms. For this game make each column of students a team and give them space on the board to write. You should write one word on the board and a member from each team should rush to the board to write a word that starts with the last letter of your word. The next team member then has to think of a word that starts with the last letter of the word his team member wrote. Students continue taking turns writing words on the board until you stop the game. It should be very fast paced. You can stop when groups start running out of space to write and decide the winner based on number of words or points. One point for 1-4 letter words and two points for 5 letters or more seems to work well but words with spelling errors and duplicates do not count. Boggle is another activity students can do in groups. Give each group a piece of scrap paper, draw a boggle letter grid on the board, and have students find as many words as they can within the time limit. You can create your own grids but be sure that there are enough word possibilities for your students to find. Give students a scoring system, ask them to score their papers and hand them in. In the next class you can announce the winning team and the best word. Another popular favorite is Hangman (see a separate article about Hangman here) but it is best to avoid the hanging imagery in the classroom so a scoring system would be better. You can choose the sentences and have students work in groups, taking turns, to figure out the answer.
Short Speaking Activities
Crisscross is a great warm up game. Ask students to stand up and start by asking a question, the student who answers correctly can choose his row or column to sit down, continue by asking another question. The game ends when everyone is sitting down. You can add a twist if there are a lot of questions you want to review with the class. Have just the first row of students stand up and when a student gives the correct answer, have him sit down and ask his team member, the student sitting directly behind him, to stand up. For this activity teams should be even or you will have to work in a way of making them even and you can draw this activity out by keeping the teams neck and neck. Fruit Basket is another speaking game where students sit in a circle with one less chair than participant. One student stands in the middle of the circle and makes a sentence. After the sentence has been said everyone that the sentence applies to must switch seats leaving another student in the center. Sentences such as “I am a student.” are sure to get everyone moving. Chinese Whispers is another speaking activity that can be done in the classroom. Think of some sentences to use, form teams, and ask the first student in each column to come to the front of the classroom or into the hallway to be given the sentence. The first team who writes a sentence on the board should receive points but the most points should go to the team that has the sentence most similar to the original.
Short Listening Activities
Bingo is a classic game that you can use not only in numbers lessons but also when talking about letters or even words and phrases. If you have noticed that students struggle with the pronunciation of numbers such as thirteen and thirty, you can have a short Bingo session using only these numbers. Rather than make Bingo cards, have students fill in the grids themselves. Karuta is another Japanese game. Have students sit in groups and spread vocabulary cards face up on the desks. When you say a word aloud, the student who grabs the correct card first gets to read it aloud and keep it. The student with the most cards at the end of the game wins. This can help students with spelling, listening, and pronunciation.
Tara has worked with English Language Learners of all ages for many years and has taught in Japan, Cambodia, and China as well as online. When she is not teaching, she enjoys cooking, traveling around the world, and scuba diving. She is a member of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Teaching-TESOL at the University of Southern California.
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