Tell me if this is a familiar scenario. You walk into your language classroom. You’re somewhat excited, but a bit tired after a day of work and commuting places. You’re thinking you should’ve probably picked up a third cup of coffee before class and instead of that bagel. You’re really not in the mood to do much, but you know that you’ll get in a learning mood once the class starts.
But why wait? Your colleagues are right there. They’re also probably thinking about needing that third coffee of the day. If there was a way you could engage with them while still avoiding the much-dreaded small talk about traffic and how hot it’s been lately, wouldn’t you do it?
The good news is that I’m going to show you 14 ways to do just that.
Why should you aim to work during the classroom downtime?
Because a lot of the learning done in a group is not necessarily done during class time. The interaction with your peers outside the classroom will help you to:
Review the material in a creative way.
Process what you’ve just learned more thoroughly.
Connect what you already know with what you going to be learning.
Keep your levels of energy and interest up.
Turn you into a self-directed learner.
Become an active participant in your own language learning journey.
Help move some of the information to long term memory.
Build a non-judgement learning community and help you bond with your classmates.
Lessen your resistance to the training, if you feel any.
There are four types of activities that you can do to make the most of the interaction with your peers during class downtime:
- connecting activities
- sponge activities
- wrap-up activities
- adieu activities.
Connecting activities usually take place before the class begins. Their main purpose is to help you focus on what you already know coming in. They will also help you introduce yourself to the other learners, or start talking to them if you’re usually the kind of person who doesn’t like small talk. How is that different from ice breakers, or just doing small talk? The connection activity is always related to the topic you’re learning in the class. It’s generally used to build up positive expectation about the class, and it will help you ease into learning and focus your energy.
Examples of connecting activities:
- Quickly shake hands with two people and tell them one thing you’d like to have clarified by the end of today’s lesson. Ask them what they’d like to have clarified as well.
- Share three things you already know about the topic. So if that day the syllabus says you’re going to talk about travel and holidays, share with your colleagues what words and idioms you’re familiar with that can be applied in a traveling situation.
- Take a short survey by asking your peers what they remember from last class.
These are short activities that soak up time that would otherwise be lost. Think of when you’re coming back from a break, and you’re waiting for everyone in your classroom to come back and sit down.
- Ask the person to your left one tip they have for language learning. For example, what’s their technique for memorizing vocabulary?
- Ask the person to your right what’s the most useful thing they’ve learned during today’s lesson. How do they plan to apply it?
- Compare notes with someone sitting behind you. Is there any important explanation or example that you missed in your notes? Fill it in.
- Instant class trivia: make up a question about what you’ve learned so far during the class. See if your colleagues know the answer.
Alternative: tell them the answer. See if they can guess the question
Wrap up activities
They’re useful for the time after the class is over. You’re getting ready to put your books back in your bag, throw your jacket on your shoulder and leave the room. That’s when you can:
- Discuss with a classmate what you plan to do with the new information. Is there an article that you can now read using the words you learned in class? Is a new expression going to help you write better emails?
- Exchange notes with one of your classmates. On their notes, take a minute and circle three important things that you want to remember from the materials. Put a star in front of what you think you’ll need to come back to in the next class. Ask them to do the same for your notes.
- Exchange notes with your classmates. Write the word WOW! in a corner of the page, in a box. Fill in that box with one thing that you learned that impressed you, or that you think is very important. Or super funny.
- Think of a way you can hold yourself accountable for your language learning. Share this with your classmate, and ask them if they’ll hold you accountable. Offer to do the same.
You want to leave the classroom with a (metaphorical) bang! These adieu activities will leave you feeling good about what you’ve learned and energize you for future studying.
- On the count of three, ask your classmates to shout: Good job, team!
- Tell someone what the best part of the class was for you. Listen to their answer too. High five!
- End in TENS : Thanks + eye-contact + name + smile.
You don’t have to do all of these activities every class. Pick a couple of them and see how they’re received by your colleagues. The most important thing is to try.
Next step? Pick one activity from each category. Try it out in your next class. Adjusts and keep experimenting. And most importantly, have fun!
If you’re a trainer looking for more short activities to incorporate in your language class, take a look at the brilliant and value-packed book The Ten-Minute Trainer: 150 Ways to Teach It Quick and Make It Stick by Sharon Bowman.