One of my weekly activities is my school’s English Club. It existed before I came, and it’s quite popular among students, so getting and keeping people interested has been easy. Generally, between 40 and 50 participants show up every week. Planning activities for English Club, however, has been difficult. Start and end times will change or a session will be canceled last minute; even when everyone knows what time we’ll be starting, that’s not when everyone will show up. Students usually trickle in the whole time. Of course flexibility is also something that should be built into lessons; if your big-group activity can’t be done with a small group (or vice versa), have a plan B.
At last Friday’s English Club, my counterpart reviewed present and past continuous with the students and had them write sentences. Useful, but not super stimulating. Then, with about 30 minutes left, she handed the session over to me. I’ve been shaking activities out of my sleeves for a long time, so I don’t panic when I’m put on the spot. I don’t love it, but I can deal with it. Writing today, I thought I’d do a little stream-of-consciousness post. How do I make up a game or activity on the spot? What goes through my head?
Just a few things to remember: What I’m posting obviously isn’t a finished product; I’ll definitely tweak some things if I do the activity again. Feel free to let me know what you’d change or add! Also, what I’m writing here is a stylized version of what happened in the classroom; some is more, some is less accurate. The way I actually explain things to my students would make for even more boring reading.
Okay. How many students do I have? 42.
That’s divisible by seven. Six groups of seven or seven groups of six? We’ll do more groups.
How can I keep them busy while I figure out what we’re doing? We just did present and past continuous.
“All right everyone! I want each group to write a list of 10 verbs. Use the -ing form.”
But wait: they’re all going write the same verbs. How can I prevent that? Alphabetically. We’ll do it alphabetically. Group 1 will do ABC. Just have to make sure Group 7 doesn’t end up with XYZ. I’ll write the groups and their letters on the board.
“Listen up! Each group will write only verbs that begin with their letters. And please include the Indonesian translation on your lists!”
Okay, now what can we do with these verbs? Charades? I need as many active students as possible though.
“Everybody finished? If you only have 7 verbs, that’s okay. Now each student gets one verb. That’s your verb. One student, one verb. Group 1, everybody come to the front. The other groups, please send only one student from your group to the front. That’s Groups 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, please send one student each.”
Is this going to work? We’ll find out in a minute!
“Group 1, you will all perform your actions at the same time. Students from the other groups, watch Group 1. You’re going to guess their actions. When you see an action and you think you know what it is, grab that actor. If two or more people grab the same actor, that actor belongs to the fastest guesser. I will be keeping track of time. When I say ‘Time’s up!’, I will ask each guesser to tell me what they think the actor was doing. If you correctly guess the action of the actor you claimed, your team gets a point. Give me your answers in a complete sentence. What was she doing? She was jumping.”
It actually worked!
“Okay, everyone! Good job!”
If I do the activity again, I’ll be specific about the time limit. I never told the actors how long they had to perform, but I kept it pretty consistent at around half a minute. I might also give points to the actors whose actions are guessed correctly. That way they have an incentive to perform well.
Sometimes I worry too much about doing new things with my students. I might be tired of an activity because I’ve done it multiple times with 30 different classes, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the students are bored of it yet. They’ve only done said activity once or twice. Still, I like trying new things. Ideally, I plan new activities in advance, but as you can see, it’s okay to fly by the seat of your pants sometimes (and it’s a skill that can be honed!). Happy planning!