Think on your feet


Teaching without material could be a dreadful idea in the beginning.

Let’s play a game

That’s a phrase that everyone loves to hear. It is a magical formula that works both with adults and children. No need for props apart from your imagination, a pen and some paper.  Here are some ideas to have on your mental list when in need of improvisation.

A teacher writing on a board. Think on your feet, no material activities for teaching

20 questions always a favourite

Apart from the classical version where you have to guess a famous person by asking 20 yes/no questions, you can modify it to guessing practically anything. Great for practising vocabulary. A fruit, a piece of furniture, a phrasal verb, you name it, it could be used in plenty of ways.

If you feel like students are always using the present simple, change the situation. Ask for a person from the past to practise questions in the past tenses or a person from a picture to review present continuous or present perfect tenses.

More question games

Ask students to draw some circles and set a topic such as childhood, school, hobby, win something, present. Ask them to write something in the circles connected with a memory on those topics and use it as conversational practice of the narrative tenses.

Expand by asking additional questions to guide the conversation or put them in pairs and make them ask each other.

Memory games

Make a ball out of paper or grab any other easy to throw object. Set pairs of association first. Let’s say  bed – sleep, desk – write, book – read. Then check how well your students remember. Throw the ball and say the first word of the pair eliciting the second word.

If you have higher levels you can try it with adjectives and preposition pairs, phrasal verbs, verbs and prepositions, compound nouns, idioms, etc.

Games are great for revision too.

Word games

Ask your students to pick some words from previous lessons and play giving definitions as the rest try to guess what the word is. If you have lower levels that don’t know how to define the words yet, mime them or draw them instead.

If you have more time, students can write the words on pieces of paper and divide them in three piles, then practise in all three ways – defining, drawing and miming.

Chain stories

I love doing those with the conditionals. One says one phrase and the next picks up their line and continues the story.

Ex. If I went to a party tonight, I would wear my black dress. If I wore my black dress, everyone would like to talk to me… and so on…

Obstacle courses

You can draw an obstacle course on the board or each student can draw one on a piece of paper and then describe the way from point A to point B to another student. While one student is explaining the other has to draw or show what is the correct way.

Another option is to make an obstacle course around the room by putting some chairs, bags or books, whatever you have at hand. Tie one student’s eyes and have the rest of the class guide them around the obstacles. Great for practising giving directions and prepositions of movement.

Draw what your partner says

This one is great for practising house vocabulary and prepositions of place. One student describes as much as he can in detail one room or the plan of their whole house or flat and the other tries to draw it as accurately as possible.

It also works with parts of the body as one student can describe an invented monster to the other. If the students have drawn the monster or the room in advance, afterwards they can compare to see if the two pictures are alike.