Published 22nd February 2016

No matter how much we prepare or how experienced we are, sometimes things just don’t go according to plan. Maybe your 20-minute activity only lasted 5 minutes, maybe you left your photocopied activities at home (!) or maybe you’ve been asked at the last-minute to fill in for a teacher who’s called in sick – all of these, sadly, very real situations in the TEFL classroom. What you need to do in these cases is make sure you have a couple of easy no-prep activities you can whip out and use whenever you need to.

Question mingle

This activity is super easy and really engaging. You’ll be surprised how little time your students have to actually talk at length about whatever they want to without any restrictions, and students seem to love this activity for just that reason. What’s also great about this activity is it can be manipulated to last as long as you need it to.

Quite simply, get your students to write down a set of questions – any questions on anything, provided that their classmates can answer them ie personal or opinion questions. They need one question for each classmate, so if there are 12 students in the class they need 11 questions – they don’t need one for themselves. They must number the questions. Then on a piece of paper they need to write down the numbers again and allocate a student’s name to each number. This is the number of the question they need to ask that person. 

For example, if Juan is number 5 on my paper and my question 5 is What is the hottest place you’ve ever been to? then that is the question I will ask Juan.

Monitor while they are writing the questions to make sure they are grammatically correct and suitable. Once this has been done, let them mingle and ask each student their question. Again monitor and note down any useful language – good or bad. Let the students talk for as long as they want; usually students move around at their own pace and can organise themselves appropriately.

Once they have finished, board the language, making note of examples of good language use as well as any errors. Finally, the students can report back to the class on any interesting information they found out about their partners.

For example, Juan went to Dubai last year and it was 40 degrees!

Any activity that lets our students move around and chat to different students in the class is sure to be a winner. This activity works because students generate the content themselves and are free to accomplish this task however they want to. The teacher is able to guide the activity and utilise it for language focus. All this with no preparation!