Emily Hudson

EF is great for resources. The wealth of resources from lesson plans, videos and ideas for games means there is plenty to fill your lessons. However, there is occasion when you will have free time or maybe even a whole free lesson. This results in time where you must use your own imagination to entertain the class. Though this may seem daunting, it can result in some of the most fun lessons you teach. Free time in ESL classroom lets you create a fun atmosphere within the classroom and to have the kids learn without realising it. With a few things in mind, you can easily plan for these lessons or even think of some extra things to do when you have 15 minutes left at the end of the lesson.

  1. Make the lesson fun. This might sound obvious, but this is maybe one of the few times that the class don't need to do any book work, so make the most of it. Most of these children will have been in school for at least some of the day, so while EF lessons are about fun on whole, why not take the opportunity to make them more fun?

  2. Tailor the activities to the age group. While students of all ages want to have fun; Frontrunners (ages 14-18) don't want to do colouring pages and High-Flyers (ages 7-10) won't be able to participate in a debate. There are some activities that all age groups will have fun doing - Pictionary or Charades are good examples. When in doubt, inject an element of competition and watch them get way more involved.

  3. Plan more games than you think you will need. You may get to the lesson with a fool proof plan but guaranteed one game will take less time than you think. The class might not enjoy a game, or something else will result in you getting through everything with time to spare. With that in mind, I always add 2/3 more activities than I think I'll need just in case that happens.

  4. Provide a mix of activities. Cater to different skills but focus on one skill set if you know the class need help in that area. If you know this class struggle with writing, try to incorporate this as much as possible or making speaking your priority if needed. By mixing activities, you keep things interesting and save the class getting bored. These lessons are less about learning new information and more about solidifying what they already know, mix the skills so they get to practice in as many ways as possible.

  5. Don't be afraid to show videos. Remember YouTube is not a bad word and can help on occasion. Doing a lesson about film? Watch a few film trailers at the end of the lesson. Frontrunners learning about humour? Show them a comedy clip from your favourite comedian for context. Highflyers having their final lesson before an achievement ceremony? Watching a 7-minute Mr. Bean animated episode is not the end of the world.

Below are some of my favourite activities/games for the four EF age groups that you may or may not want to borrow for your ESL classroom.

Small Stars (ages 3-6):

  • Colouring pages

  • Memory game with flashcards- which card is missing?

  • Nursery rhyme videos

High Flyers (ages 7-10):

  • Telephone- a sentence is whispered down the line of students

  • Last man standing- practice vocab by naming something from a given topic (e.g. parts of the body) no repetition, no hesitation.

  • Hangman

Trailblazers (ages 11-13):

  • Chain stories- practice tenses or learned phrases

  • Mad libs- try and use a text related to the topic

  • Board Race- split the board and the classroom in half, give each half a topic

FrontRunners (ages 14-18):

  • Debate

  • Taboo-describe something without mentioning certain related words.

  • Two truths and a lie- can be personal or do some research on phones to find movie trivia etc.

Free time in ESL classroom, whilst in can be daunting, must be looked on as an opportunity to relax with the class. Make the most of this time, but don't be afraid to use the resources you have been provided by EF and the internet. Most of all don't stress or panic and just let this time be fun.

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