The Think Team, editors, frequent contributors, and muses, representing a few hundred years of total teaching experience, have compiled a list of some of their favorite class extras. Take a look. Better yet, print these quickies out and put them in your attendance book. You never know when class will end sooner than expected. (If that never happens, it means you are talking too much! J)
These are arranged from the most to least mundane (and most touching).
Age Goes Round: Stand in a circle. Re-order yourselves by birthday, January 1 to December 31, using only English.
News Desk: Tell me one thing (each) that was in the news since we last met.
Information Hunt: Like a treasure hunt but you are trying to be the first to find information in a text or book.
Postcard Me: Over the summer break, send me a postcard in English.
Quiz Fetch: To get students moving, have them come pick up (or turn in) their own quiz papers or handouts instead of passing them out.
Katakana Corner: Focus on a different loanword in each lesson and how its meaning can be conveyed in English. (Katakana is the Japanese syllabary used for foreign words added to the language, like “Daypahto” デパート for department store, or “Maykoo メーク for make-up.)
Wall Dictation: One student goes to the back wall of the classroom, reads the text that’s pinned to the wall, returns to her partner, and dictates it. She will need to go and come several times. Insist on total accuracy. Use it to give students important information, like what’s on the test.
Physiostressing:Have learners stand up on stressed syllables and sit down on unstressed ones as they pronounce words.
Product Check: Bring some goods with English on them to class (especially those made in China) and we will check to see if there are any mistakes.
Rowdy Pictionary: Put words or phrases you’ve taught on cards along with some fun ones like “007.” One student from each group comes to the front, sees the word, goes back and draws pictures until someone in the group guesses the word. No verbal hints, numbers, or letters allowed.
Wear your Watch Upside Down: When a student points out the oddity out, say, “You see, it’s time to study English.” (a Tim Murphey idea)
Lateral Thinking Puzzles: Give a situation like this one Curtis made: “I woke up this morning and there was blood on my ceiling. Why?” Students ask yes-no questions until they figure out the answer. (Answer: I swatted a mosquito that had bitten me in the middle of the night.). More here.
Show and Tell: Share some personal treasure, or a photo in your phone.
Stories for the Heart: Tell a short story now and then, like these (but you might want to cut the religious references(.
Mood Hack: Students work in pairs. One smiles intensively while the other frowns intensively. The one who laughs first loses. (We’ve heard that the smiler always wins.)
Touching Video Ender: Show one of the many touching videos on YouTube at the end of each class, like this one. Skip passing out a vocabulary list or asking comprehension questions. The video is enough. (more in Kelly/Murphey article in Online Learning Think Tank)
Random Acts of Kindness: Have students read the great stories in this exercise sheet and try to make their own.
Communicards: Passed to us by Professor Hiroyoshi Harakawa, this wonderful end-of-class technique lets students tell you about their lives and, often, how they feel about your classes. At the end of class, pass out communicards, little pieces of paper, asking them to write their names and a sentence or two about something they’d like to tell you. Say that, since they know so much about you, you’d like to know something about them, whether that be a party one of them went to, what’s for dinner tonight, or an apology for being sleepy after staying up all night.
Zoom Over to You: At the end of an online class, you leave, but tell the students you’ll leave Zoom on for them to interact if they want (it might work better if you set up breakout rooms).
Juggling: Teach your students to juggle. Leave it to them to figure out the connection between learning to juggle and learning English. (another Tim Murphey idea)
Gift to the Cleaners: In that class held in the last period of the day, assign a couple students (for each coming class as well) to leave a message on the board for the cleaning person, such as their gratitude for the neat room, or what they did in class today.
Thank You Circle: Stand in a circle. You say “(name), thank you for (something)” to a student, like for always smiling. That student thanks another student and so on until everyone gets thanked. Then bask in the light.
Phone Fiasco: (we actually did this at a speech contest with 300 students) If you have more than 50 students gathered, those who are willing to do so write their phone number on a piece of paper, but no name. These are passed out randomly to all participating and on “go” they call each other. Using only English, and not saying their names, they have to find their partner. The first pairs that run to you get a prize.