ESL LESSON TIP: How To Get 5 Minutes To Think?

/ All levels, Lesson tips, New to ELT, Teachers

If you have back-to-back lessons or are sent to cover a sick colleague last minute, you might find yourself in the situation that you have your class in front of you, but you still haven’t cleaned up your materials from the previous lesson or don’t really know what to do in this class. Time to get 5 minutes to think.

Rule number one: Keep cool. Smile and come up with a quick exercise for them:

If you know the group:

– write three questions/statements on the whiteboard and ask them to discuss it, find a compromise or rank them in pairs. For example:
a) Which city is the most beautiful in the world?
b) English is the easiest language on Earth.
c) The three best dishes in my country are: 1) pizza, 2) ice-cream, 3) pasta carbonara.
– give them a picture to describe from the book in pairs: they can, for example, make up a background story for a picture (and this might lead you to the listening task) or just practise to say as much as possible about one picture, etc.
– ask them to check their homework in pairs and then encourage them to ask you only the questions they could not decide about.

These quick tasks will give you 5 minutes to close down the previous lesson in your mind, clean up your desk and get into this lesson.
Start with open-class feedback.

If you don’t know the group:

– tell the students that their teacher is sick and ask them to write a quick ‘Get-better-soon note’ for him/her.
– ask them to discuss in pairs who you might be, where you might be from and any other details about your life (married, kids, hobbies, etc.).
– ask them to write down one thing they would like to do in this lesson.
While they are doing this, ask two of them to show you their books and notebooks so you can get some idea at what point they are at.
Ask them about their discussion and give them feedback.

After this, everything depends on your talent in improvisation.


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