3 Instant and Emergency Classes with (Almost) No Resources

3 Instant and Emergency Classes with (Almost) No Resources

Chris Speck
by Chris Speck 17,690 views

Every teacher has a situation where they have nothing prepared to teach.

You may have been asked to cover a lesson at short notice, there may be an emergency, your new born baby kept you awake all night, you got stuck in traffic … the reasons are endless.

Here are 3, instant, no resource lessons that will get you out of such a fix without any real preparation, minimal resources and a little bit of showmanship. Make a mental note of them and bring them out when needed.

3 Instant and Emergency Classes with No Resources

  1. 1

    Writing: Write a Chain Email


    Brainstorm some ideas on the types of emails people send and receive, like: an email of complaint, application, explanation, request or emails between friends or colleagues. With a chatty class you might come up with lots of these, write them on the board.

    Write the start of six emails on the board – change these if needed – make sure they look like emails with the correct formatting.

    1. Dear Teacher,
      I’m sorry I can’t come to class on Tuesday because…
    2. Dear Friend,
      I want you to come to my house next Friday because….
    3. Dear Bill,
      I want to tell you about my holiday…
    4. Hi Sarah, How are you?
      Please can you help me with my …
    5. Dear Manager,
      I want to tell you about a serious problem I have at work…


    Give students a number and get them to copy down the first line of the email from the board on a loose piece of paper. Give them say, two minutes to finish only the sentence and stop. Then, they pass the email to their left for the next student to continue. The next student writes a sentence and then passes the email on. In this way, they write many different emails as a class. Explain that students have to read and continue the letter in the same way.

    After about five or six changes, ask students to finish the letter using as many sentences as they need.


    When students have finished, read their letters out to them. They will find them very funny. You could take them away and correct them or display them or pass them back for students to correct the grammar or spelling.


    • Make sure that everyone changes at the same time, wait for slow students and don’t let fast students pass their letter on until all the students are ready.
    • Don’t make the letter go on for too long, six or seven changes is enough.
  2. 2

    Speaking: Role-plays


    Everyone loves a good chat and a role play. This instant lesson works for a variety of situations.

    Doctor > patient / Housing officer > tenant / Travel agent > tourist / Employer > employee

    Once you have decided which role-play you’ll do, you need to make the questions. Think about the situation and then dictate five to ten questions or get your students to suggest them. For doctor>patient you could use these:

    1. What’s your name and address?
    2. What’s the problem?
    3. What are your symptoms?
    4. Are you sleeping well?
    5. What food do you usually eat?
    6. How much exercise do you do?



    Put the tables into a horseshoe shape so some students sit around the outside and the same amount on the inside. One the outside are the doctors. On the inside are the patients. Allow the doctors three to five minutes to interview the patients asking all the questions you dictated and noting down the answers. Then, stop the class and have all the patients – the inside circle, move to the left. Continue until the doctors have interviewed as many patients as you like.


    When you have brought the class back together, elicit who was the best doctor and why. You could have a class vote.


    While students are conducting their interviews, wander round the classroom listening and giving feedback to make sure students stay on track.

  3. 3

    Multi-skills Lesson: The Pub Quiz


    Explain the idea of a quiz in your country (in my case, the pub quiz in the UK).

    Tell students they are going to have a quiz and that they are going to write the questions. The number of questions will depend on how many students you have and how good they are. In a class of ten who are intermediate, I’d ask them to write three questions each.


    While students are writing their questions you must help them or the game will not work. Explain that students must not ask a question that is too difficult like ‘briefly explain relativity’ or ‘What colour are my grandfather’s eyes?’ Similarly, they shouldn’t ask questions which are too subjective like ‘ What is the best football team in the world?’ Students should also know the answer to the question.

    When you are happy that students have three good questions each, get them to ask their questions to the class. You can start by asking questions 1 to 3. Get the student to your left to ask questions 4 to 6 and the student next to them to ask 7 to 9 and so on. Students answer by writing the answers on their paper. Hopefully there will be some banter around the questions – asking for repetition. You might need to paraphrase but let the question teller do most of the work.


    When all the questions are done – elicit the answers and find out the winner. Students get free points for the questions that they wrote.

    The really nice part about this lesson is the genuine communication that it produces, especially when there is cheating and uncertainty among the answers and questions. There may be petty squabbles about the longest river in the world, and you might need Google to help you, but this is all part of this lesson.


    • Ask three questions yourself.
      1. What is the biggest native spoken language in the world? (Chinese with 1.2 billion native speakers)
      2. Spell the word ‘business’.
      3. Write down a sentence in the present perfect.
    • Give a prize for the winner – the worse the better!

The pool ball over the pocket rule.

Journeyman pool players will usually leave a ‘ball next to the pocket’ pot and go for something more difficult, unless they don’t have any other shot to play. The same is true with these emergency lessons – don’t use them till you really need them.

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