Tag Archives: no prep

Ball Toss

Conversation
This game has many variations. One variation I have used with great success is writing questions on a beach ball. I use a whiteboard marker to write on the ball, but let it dry thoroughly before class, so it doesn’t smudge but it can be washed clean and reused with different questions later.

Students gently toss the ball to one another and read aloud and answer the question under their right thumb. To make the activity more challenging, have Student A read/ask the question, and toss the ball to Student B. Student  B answers that question, then asks the question under their right thumb, and tosses the ball to Student C, who answers Student B’s question.

If it’s a “getting to know you” activity, use questions to elicit name, age, and basic information. Otherwise, it can be used to practice likes/dislikes, 5 W/H-questions, etc. It is quite a versatile activity and can be used with just about anything that you’re studying.

If you don’t have a ball handy, you can crumple up a piece of paper to use as a ball. Ask a question and toss the ball to a student. That student must answer and ask a question (the same question for true beginners or a related question, if higher level), then toss the “ball” to the next student.

If you want the students to ask different questions, you should give them a topic (daily routine, hobbies, etc.) or grammar pattern to use.
If you want to make sure all students have equal turns, have students sit down after catching the ball.

If you have more than 10-12 students in your class, you may want to divide them into groups, each with their own ball, so students aren’t waiting long periods between turns. This will also increase student talking time.

You can wrap up the activity by asking students questions about other students’ answers. Let students know before they begin that they need to listen closely to each other’s answers. This will make them more likely to pay attention between their own turns and, of course, provide additional listening and speaking practice.

Generally, this activity can be used with all ages. You can even use it with younger students as long as their ability is high enough to answer the questions. The same for class size: you can use it for larger classes, as long as their level is move advanced, simply because they will be better suited to working in small groups with less attention needed from you.

If you have a class of 30 beginners, you might want to simply toss the ball and ask a question, rather than require them to read it, and have each student repeat the same question as they toss the ball. After 10-12 students have asked and answered the same question, take the ball and toss it to a different student, asking a new question.

Name 5 Things

Name
This is an excellent warm-up activity at the beginning of class to review vocabulary words from the previous class. Put students into pairs. They’ll need one piece of paper and one pen. Tell them to name five _____. The category will depend on the level and age of students.

For beginners, you could do easy things like animals, colors, fruits, etc. For higher-level students, you could use things that move, animals with four legs, things that can fly, breakfast foods, etc.

The first team to write down their five things raises their hands and you can check to make sure all the answers are appropriate. If you want to name one group a winner, you can choose the first group to finish or  the team with the most unique answers. Whether you want a “winner”or not, you can finish the activity by having each group share their answers.

I’m an Alien

I'm an Alien
Like most teachers, I love a no-prep, no-materials activity, and students generally enjoy this one. You begin class by telling the students you are an alien. The scenario is you landed just a few minutes earlier, right outside the school. Since you are new here, you don’t know a lot of words, and you need some help.

You can create a mission scenario, and elicit vocabulary that will help you. Maybe you want to send a letter telling your mother you have arrived safely. You can elicit pen, paper, stamp, envelope, post office. Maybe you need to meet someone in another part of the school, such as the cafeteria. You can elicit types of rooms in a school (hall, bathroom, library, etc.) as well as direction words.

The game can go on as long as you like– simply adjust the mission to the length of time. Once you have played the alien, you can have students work in small groups. One student will take the role of the alien and the rest of the group are helpful humans. If your students are lower level, it may be helpful to give them a card with a scenario.

Have you played I’m an Alien with your students? What is your go-to mission?

2 Truths and a Lie

two truths border
When I first started teaching, I had never even heard of two truths and a lie. Crazy, right? Now, it is a staple in my classroom, because it is no prep, requires no materials, and gets students talking and listening.

I either run it as a whole class activity in small classes, or we play in groups of 4-6 in a bigger class. My general rule of thumb is that it takes around 3-4 minutes per student without follow-up questions. However, if you allow 2-3 minutes for students to quiz the speaker for more information, it takes about 6-7 minutes per student.
This is a useful activity not only for practicing the speaking sub-skills of initiating a conversation and responding to something in a questioning/ doubtful way but also for practicing “always/ usually/ sometimes/ never” or “can/ can’t” and “I’ve.” For example, if you allow question time, students will have to say something like, “You can make/play/do _____? I don’t believe you! Tell me _____.”

If you haven’t played it before, it’s an easy game. Students begin by writing three sentences, one of which is false. They read their sentences to their group and the other students guess the false one. Higher level classes can ask three questions, or question the person for a pre-determined amount of time (2-3 minutes) to determine the false one. Each student gets a turn to play. A correct guess gets one point. If no one guesses a student’s lie, that student can get a point, too, if you like. The lower the students’ level, the fewer rules you should have, though.

You can do this as a single activity in one class, or you can also do it over a series of days as a warmer to begin class or a filler at the end. This is a great first-day ice breaker if your students haven’t met before.

Before you have students write their sentences, give them a few examples of good sentences and bad sentences. You may even want to write them on the board. “Good” sentences include ones about hobbies or experiences they have had– information that they can elaborate on in answer to the other students’ questions. “Bad” sentences would be ones that have no other details for students to discover through questioning, such as, “I was born at X Hospital.”

Time each turn to keep the game moving. At the end, you can finish up by asking which students were able to trick their classmates, who was the best at picking the lies, etc.