Published 19th January 2018

For the most part, TEFL teachers are well-prepared creatures. We put time and effort into needs analyses, sourcing resourcing and lesson planning in order to ensure that we carry out the best lessons we can for our students. But sometimes life doesn’t go according to plan and we can find ourselves scrabbling to put together a lesson at the last minute.

Have you ever planned a lesson only to realise as you are walking into class that it’s just not going to work?

Ever been asked to fill in a lesson in an hour because a teacher has called in sick?

Ever just felt like not doing what you had planned?

This is what we’re talking about – those days when you need some last-minute lesson ideas and activities to get you through your lessons.

What to do in those situations? Read on for a few ideas.


Newspapers are a great resource for the classroom. They are readily available and can be used in a multitude of ways in the classroom. They are a great source of authentic language and because they are up-to-date you are bound to find material that is relevant to your class and interesting.

The easiest newspaper lesson? Hand out pages of a newspaper to each student. Have them choose an article, read it and make sure they understand it. They must choose five words from the article they do not know, look them up and consolidate the meaning. Then, put the students in buzz groups and let them exchange stories verbally (without reading them) and also teach each others their words.


A flexible lesson that students love because it gives them time to talk. At the beginning of the lesson ask the students to write down ten questions on any topic (it can be related to previous lessons if you would like) that they can ask their classmates. In other words, it can’t be questions they know the answer to e.g. Where are you from? – or their classmate won’t know the answer to – Who is the President of Albania? Encourage them to come up with genuine questions they would like to discuss.

Pair up your students and give them some time to ask each other their questions. They don’t need to ask all of their questions. Rather, they can spend time discussing their answers. After a certain amount of time, get the students to change partners. At the end of the activity, you can ask your students to report back on anything interesting they learnt about any of their classmates and focus on any errors you may have picked up.


Revision is key to language learning, so why not use the lesson as an opportunity to revise the students’ recent work. Even if you don’t know your students well or haven’t the faintest idea what they’ve been working on, a look through their course book and their record of work should give you a good idea. Then you can choose some of your favourite revision activities and turn the lesson into a games lesson!

The next time you need to plan a lesson in a hurry, don’t panic. Just pick one of these three ideas and you’re good to go.

You’re welcome!