Time flies when you’re having fun and isn’t it great when your ESL students are surprised to see it’s time to go home? Some may not even want to go home!
One great way to put some fun into your ESL class is to introduce some timed activities – it’s amazing how fired up and competitive students get when they’re on the clock.
8 ESL Activities You Can Do With An Egg Timer
Time to Write!
For this writing activity, your students will write a story as a group. First, you’ll need an idea or prompt to get them started: you can give them the title of the story or the first line/words. Set your timer to one minute (or 30 seconds depending on your students’ level, and ask them to continue the story. When their time is up they must pass the sheet of paper to a classmate – it doesn’t matter if they have to stop midsentence. The next student has to pick up where the previous left off. When all of your students have had the chance to contribute to the story, you can go on for a bit longer but ask them to wrap it up.
Beat Your Own Record
This is a great activity for one-on-one classes. When a student takes classes alone, he/she doesn’t have the chance to compete with other students. So give them a chance to compete against themselves! Ask your student to write as many new words from a recent lesson as they can. Give them one or two minutes to do this. Count the number of words. Next time, encourage your student to beat their own record.
Race against Time
Make your relay races extra competitive and super charged by giving your teams two minutes to complete the task. One relay race that works well like this involves word order. Team members must take a word from a pile on one desk and run to another desk, where they must place them in the right order one at a time. The team that completes a sentence first and within the 2-minute limit gets the point.
Ticking Time Bomb
Choose a vocabulary category you’d like to practice. Set your timer to one or two minutes, say an item that falls into this category, for example “fox” for “animals” and pass the timer to a student. Students must each name an item in the category and pass the timer to a classmate. The student who has the timer when it goes off loses a life.
This is a really useful way to get students focused on a reading task. Simply give them a text, story, or article to read, together with a set of comprehension questions to answer. Set your timer. Students must complete the task before the timer goes off. This is also a great way to prepare them for international examinations with timed reading sections, like the Cambridge examinations.
Give each of your students 60 seconds to name as many items in a category as they can. First, divide them into two teams. Then, one team picks a card with a category out of a bag, say “professions”. The clock starts ticking and the first team member starts naming professions. If they get stuck, they may say “pass” and the next team member continues naming, but they can’t repeat a profession that has already been named. When the 60 seconds are up, you tell the team how many words they named correctly with no repetition. The other team picks a category and does the same.
Time to Get Organized
Give your class or a team of students one minute to arrange themselves according to age, birthdays, alphabetical order, etc…They can only speak English for this challenge.
What’s Different This Time?
Arrange a set of objects on a table. Be sure to include plenty of classroom objects. Take a picture, if you can, with a camera that has a display on the back. Ask a student to look carefully at the arrangement and try to memorize it. Ask student to leave the classroom. Move some of the objects around, but no more than three. When student comes back into the classroom, he/she has 60 seconds to tell you what’s different. They must use prepositions of place: “The blue pen was next to the teacher’s book, but now it’s under it.” Confirm with the photo you took.
Keep in mind that you can also use a cell phone, in case you don’t have an egg timer – plenty of phones come with a timer. If you have a computer in the classroom you may also use an online timer like this Online Egg Timer, which rings at the end of the countdown just like a real one.
The clock’s ticking! No time to waste! Try some of these activities in your ESL class, and your students will have the time of their lives!
Has this article whet your appetite for more great teaching ideas? Then, head to our ESL Essentials Section for busy teachers, just like you!