Class Extras: Little Detours to Improve your Language Classes

March 2022

We asked readers for activities and materials to share, and we got responses from teachers around the world! Many of these materials are inspired by the science we’ve shared in previous issues, so we hope you enjoy seeing theory put into practice in this month’s issue. There’s a little bit of everything here, all ready to be implemented in your classroom! 

Our cover: “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” – Albert Einstein

Cover photo by Jason Leung on unsplash. Others from pixabay.        

Watch before you read...

At first glance, this Think Tank seems to shift away from our usual coverage of brain sciences, in order to offer you a treasure box of throw-ins, short and long. Much like the raisins in raisin bread, these little extras can sweeten the main lesson. Looking through the first couple of pages, you’ll notice that the Lite introductory video is a collection of such activities, as is Heather Kretchmer’s article on class entrance and exit tickets and Anna Ansari suggestions for livening up online classes. More come in two fine collections, with an impressive 28 activities, provided by our readers and the editing team.

Going further down the table of contents, you’ll come to Harumi Kimura’s haptic recipes and Marc Helgesen’s energy breaks. That’s when you might notice a connection to brain sciences. In previous issues, we have often stressed the role of movement in getting cognitive function up. We hope our deeper purpose will also dawn on you—we are not shifting away from brain science at all—especially if you noticed that the Main introductory piece is from Neuroscience News. These extras are more than just enjoyable detours—they serve improved brain function. Hints to that effect exist all through the issue, as in Mirela Ramacciotti’s addendum on attention, but it is Julia Daley’s lead-in article that really drives the point home. Class extras increase learning potential. Enjoy. And don’t miss the surprise in the PLUS section.

Our Thoughts on Class Extras

Let's Pause for a Moment... Julia Daley

…and let’s take a break. Maybe you’re doing that now, by reading this Think Tank in your free time. Presumably you’re at your desk at work. You’ve likely been there awhile today—or perhaps sitting is a brief respite for you after being on your feet and teaching. Reading something like this might not seem like much of a pause but, as far as your brain is concerned, the shift in focus is indeed a welcome break. And you need a break—we all need the occasional break—because our minds are just not meant to sustain their focus on a single task for an extensive amount of time.

Think Tank Articles

Entrance and Exit Tickets Heather Kretschmer

Before you read any further, I invite you to start this Canadian Brass YouTube video and give the first piece your full attention (0:00 – 1:08). When the audience applauds, pause the recording and continue reading.

For me, this Canadian Brass piece grabs listeners’ attention straight away and entices them to hear more.

Precisely the function of entrance and exit tickets.

LOOKING BACK: Attention Tickets Mirela Ramacciotti

Addendum to Previous: Last May, one of our contributors, Mirela Ramacciotti, also published an article on a staple for entrance and exit tickets—attention. It described how to harness attention to increase engagement in online classes. It seems great minds latch on to the same things! Now, Mirela has made—especially for this issue of our Think Tank—an introduction to the guiding topic of her writing. Over to you now, Mirela. – Curtis Kelly

Warm-Ups and Energizers to Enliven Online Lessons Anna Ansari

Video conferences can really sap our energy. When Zoom fatigue sinks its claws into our students, it’s high time to switch gears. Regular breaks help. Warm-ups and energizers do, too. Here are some game-like activities you can use to either warm up students at the beginning of a lesson or to rouse sleepy students partway through.

Class Extras from Our Friends Think Tank Contributors

Think Tank Team: We sent out a request for class extra favorites to our readers. This fine list of ideas came in!

Think Tanker Throw-Ins Think Tank Team

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).

Let’s Move! Energy Breaks For The Language Classroom Marc Helgesen

Human beings are not designed to sit still all day. Thousands of years ago, on the plains of the Serengeti in Africa, people walked 10-20 kilometers every day (Medina, 2014). It has only been in the past century or two that people everywhere moved to cities. Later, we started going everywhere in cars and trains. We might have gotten used to it but our bodies haven’t changed in that short time. We still need to move.

Haptic Activities in Recipe Writing Project Harumi Kimura

Do university students enjoy communicating with body language? I do believe so. In my English Literacy class for building reading and writing skills, students work on a few projects in each semester. One of the projects is to make a class cookbook, an activity based on a unit in a commercial course book (Martin, 2010). Students work on their own original recipe and I combine all the recipes in one PowerPoint file to share among the group. Below are three haptic, i.e., tactile-kinesthetic, activities for student pairs.

Think Tank Plus

Just Rewards The Think Tank Team

Since 2006, Brain Science has been exploring how recent discoveries in neuroscience are unraveling the mystery of how our brain makes us human.”

Virginia Campbell hosts a podcast that we often refer to in the Think Tanks, and many of us consider the most valuable source of information on the brain. Basically, she interviews neuroscientists on books they have just published, letting us get their most important findings in 60 minutes. It is a wonderful alternative for those of us too busy to read every brain book that comes out, but also an inspiration to read those books whose authors we find particularly interesting. We have learned about embodied cognition, predictive processing, plasticity, and so much more from her podcasts.

Call for Contributions: Ideas and Articles Think Tank Staff

Become a Think Tank star! Here are some of the future issue topics we are thinking about. Would you, or anyone you know, like to write about any of these? Or is there another topic you’d like to recommend? Do you have any suggestions for lead-in, or just plain interesting, videos? How about writing a book review? Or sending us a story about your experiences? Contact us.

Going Deeper

In addition to Neurolanguage Collective, George Kokolas suggests we look at this site too: ELT Action

“Our vision is to change the way English Language Teachers consult, share knowledge, and network with each other.

Through an exclusive teachers network, we bring together reliable peers from all over the world, helping to make an impact on how we teach.

Our aim is to make this place the No.1 destination for English Language teachers to connect, share ideas, and learn from each other, building a global, trusted, professional network and reputation, within an exclusive environment.

We welcome English Language teachers of various experience, nationalities, and specializations who wish to be part of this global networking & collaboration platform. We are particularly interested in members who wish to contribute with knowledge & interesting content, to help build an engaging, powerful ELT community.


Interesting class openers and closers.

Here are five good games for the language classroom.

Don’t miss the new addition to our site! For teaching and learning…

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The MindBrained Think Tanks+

is produced by the Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT) Mind, Brain, and Education Special Interest Group (BRAIN SIG). Kyoto, Japan. (ISSN 2434-1002)

Editorial Staff

Stephen M. Ryan                Julia Daley                   Marc Helgesen

        Curtis H. Kelly                 Skye Playsted                Heather McCulloch

    Jason Walters                  Rishma Hansil               Mohammad Khari




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