You just finished the last activity in your lesson plan and you’re feeling great about both your students’ performance in class as well as your own. The lesson flowed well, your students were engaged and were quick to learn the target language and now you’re ready to wrap up the lesson. Then you notice, there’s still 10 minutes left before your class time is over. What do you do when this happens?
Why you shouldn’t end a lesson early:
Your students, especially adult learners, have put their work and daily activities on hold to make time for English class and some of them are paying from their own pocket for a full lesson. Remember too that many students don’t have an overwhelming amount of time to learn or study English outside of their lessons with you so they expect to use every minute of the scheduled class time. Lessons should only finish early if your student(s) need to leave class due to another commitment or if there’s an emergency. Lessons should never finish early because the teacher has run out of things to do. So, how can you be prepared to intentionally fill up remaining class time in case your lesson runs short? Check out the following ideas to keep your students engaged and actively learning and practicing English all the way up to the final moments of your lesson.
Tips for intentionally and appropriately filling time at the end of class:
If you have 5 minutes or less remaining: Exit Ticket
Our personal favourite, the exit ticket! This quick, easy final activity is designed to confirm your students’ comprehension of the target vocabulary and give them one last chance to be creative and practice speaking. Each of The TEFL Lab’s lessons ends with an exit ticket specifically designed for the target language but you can always include your own. Exit ticket prompts like “Use the target language in a sentence”; “Share a word you learned in class today”; “Ask your classmate a question”; “Use the target language in a negative sentence”; “What part(s) of today’s target language do you still want to practice further?” are all great starts. Simply pose an exit ticket question or prompt to your students and ask them to share their answers aloud before packing up their things and leaving the classroom.
If you have 5 minutes remaining: Review Student Errors
Along with exit tickets, we think that reviewing your learners’ errors at the end of class is a great habit to add to your end of class routine. To do this effectively, you’ll have to make notes of your students’ most common errors during class as well as things they may have gotten right by the end of the lesson but that tended to trip them up along the way. Once your class has finished the final production activity, present each error one at a time on a white board or for online lessons, an online platform/app that allows you to write or type. To present errors, you’ll write an error exactly as it was said in class by one of your students and then ask the group to find the error and correct it. If your lesson was about prepositions of place and your student(s) frequently confused on with in, write a sentence they said with this error (ie. I’m on the office) and prompt them to correct it. If your student(s) struggled with the pronunciation of a particular word in class, write it on the board (or screen) and ask someone to say it aloud. Correct the pronunciation as necessary. During this error correction activity, it’s important that you give your students ample time to find the errors and correct them without your interference. If your students struggle to identify the error in the sentence, or say the word correctly, that’s your cue to provide guidance. This session is not a time to point out who made the most errors in class and put them on the spot; it’s entirely the opposite. This time allows your students to end on a high note with an extra opportunity to correct their mistakes and leave class solidifying the target language and pronunciation.
If you have 5+ minutes remaining: Practice the Target Language or Play a Game
Practice activities or language games don’t need much preparation and can be slipped into the last moments of class time with a fair amount of ease. If your lesson focused on new vocabulary, write the list of vocabulary terms somewhere your students can’t see. Then, number them (1 to 10 for example). Ask a student to choose a number. You’ll give them the word that corresponds to the number they selected and a prompt for using the word. You can ask them to say what the word means, ask them to provide a synonym or antonym, use it in a question, negative sentence or a positive one. You can also do this activity using a randomizer tool online that allows you to type different prompts on a dice or series of cards. Select a student, click the randomizer and they’ll see their prompt. For grammar lessons, make a list of forms (negative, interrogative, positive, with different subjects, etc.) and follow the same steps. To make this activity even faster, have this list (or randomizer tool) preplanned and ready to use in case you need it.
If you have 5+ minutes remaining: Implement a Course Checkpoint
The TEFL Lab’s Course Checkpoint tool is a great resource that allows you to check in with your students to see how they are feeling about their progress and what they’d like more or less of in class. This tool comes with a printable pdf for you to make notes on as you discuss the prompts with your students. Providing opportunities for your learners to share how they’re feeling about their progress and learning needs is important in their overall success so be sure to make time for this.
If you have 5+ minutes remaining: Conversation Cards
Give your students time to practice natural conversation by bringing a series of conversation cards to class. If you teach online lessons, use a randomizer tool with conversation questions/prompts on them and have this tool ready in case you have time. These questions should be level and age appropriate and customized to your learners’ interests. You’ll have them select a card, read the question aloud and share their response. Since this is designed to be a conversation activity, you’ll ask follow up questions, encourage other learners to share their responses, and even share your own (or prompt students to ask you about your response). This activity should be conducted in a fairly natural way with limited error correction (but you’re more than welcome to make notes of learner errors to bring up later).
If you have 5+ minutes remaining: Start Homework Together
If you’re planning on assigning homework to your students (like The TEFL Lab’s homework printables), you can start the tasks as a group at the end of the lesson. Simply review the information and prompt your learners to respond/work on the first prompt together. Try to avoid any written activities during this time since class time should really be used for students to practice their speaking.
If you have 7-10+ minutes remaining: Social Media Activity
One of the greatest things about social media is the text limit for most platforms. Instagram captions are limited to 2,200 characters and tweets on Twitter are significantly shorter which means they’re both great for quick reading and discussion activities. If you’re an Instagram user, you can make a folder in your saved posts specifically for content to be used at the end of class. Save posts from news outlets, magazines, arts and science profiles, celebrities, you name it. Profiles like Humans of New York that tell stories about real people, using “real” language can be great for more advanced students as a way to read aloud and share comments.
There are so many great ways to end a lesson without feeling like you need to fill the remaining minutes with busy work or boring games. Use every moment of your lesson, right up to the end, to really practice language and encourage creative and critical thought and your students will leave feeling excited about their next class with you.