TEFL Tip: 3 Last Minute EFL Lesson Plans for Any Class

By Jennifer Collis
August 4, 2015
Teacher and students in an EFL classroom

Attention EFL teachers: Have you ever finished teaching a carefully planned out lesson only to glance at the clock and see 15 (terrifying) minutes remaining, with nothing for your students to do? Or have you ever been asked to sub a class at the last minute without being provided with a lesson plan? Or have you ever had to sub a class of children but didn’t know how to teach kids english? Stay calm! We’ve got you covered with these easy, last minute EFL lesson plans/activities that can be adapted to any age and level, for situations like these.

Activity 1: Pronunciation Practice– Minimal Pairs

Don’t worry if you can’t quite remember what minimal pairs are; this pronunciation game is easy for the teacher and fun for students. Best of all, it requires no real preparation and just a white board and marker.

Goal of the activity: Students identify correctly pronounced words

How to play:

1. Make two columns on the white board, and label them “right” and “left.”

2. Think of pairs of short words your students already know that are exactly the same in pronunciation except for one different sound (these are “minimal pairs”). Examples of minimal pairs are: she’s/cheese, this/these, very/bury, bad/bed, fan/van, etc. (for more examples, this website is helpful: https://www.englishclub.com/). Choose 5  pairs and for each, write one word on the right and one word on the left side of the column.

2.  Practice saying all the words with the class first, then tell students you will now call out a word from the board, and they should raise their left or right hand, depending on which column they see the word in. Reveal the right answer after each example.

3. After the warm up, you’re ready to play. Each student will number a piece of paper 1-5. Now you call out one word from each pair on the board. As you do, students write an R or L, depending on which word they hear. Review answers with students.

4. Change the words and play again.

How to make it harder/different: Have a student come to the front of the class and call out words.

Activity 2: Last Man Standing

Goal of the activity: Vocabulary Review

How to play: You’ll need a ball or something soft to throw from student to student. In a pinch, you can use a balled up piece of paper.

1. Think of a vocab theme, with the students’ level and age in mind. Examples for lower level students include: animals, colors, numbers or foods. For higher levels, you could use verbs, adjectives or nouns under a certain theme, such as “a party” or “a business meeting.” You can brainstorm words on the board first, then erase them all.

2. All students stand. Start the game by naming your category (“fruits” for example) then throwing the ball to a student. He or she catches it, names another fruit, and then throws the ball to another student, who names another one, then throws the ball again. If a student cannot think of a word, he or she has to sit.

3. The “last man standing” wins!

How to make it harder/different: You can call on a student to choose the category. You can shout out a new category mid-way through the game. You can also play this game using word association, instead of categories, so there is no wrong answer. 

Activity 3: TEFL Taboo

Goal of the activity: Speaking and describing

How to play:

1. Ask students to brainstorm some new vocab words they have learned so far in class. Have a student write them on the board as you choose about 10-15 good ones and write 5 each on separate pieces of paper for each group. Erase the board.

2. Depending on the size of the class, divide students into small groups of about 4 and give one student in each group a paper with the words.

3. Of the four students:

  • One will be the “reader,” describing the word (or, if you have groups of more than 4, then other students can help describe the word).
  • One watches the time (two minutes)
  • One has a “buzzer” (they can just hit the table or say “out!”) in case one of the words  is said by mistake
  • One sits in the “hot seat” and  tries to figure out the target word.

4. When you say go, the 2-minute “timer” starts and the student in the hot seat tries to guess as many words as possible, as described by the reader. The reader cannot say the word or any form of it. If he or she does, then the buzzer is hit and the reader moves on to the next word.

5. For the next round, rotate the list of words from one group to another and have students switch roles.

How to make it harder: You can have students come up with the words in groups at the start of the game. For example, have them think of as many verbs as they can, or as many nouns related to a certain topic. Then pass each group’s list to another group and play. Or, your school may have the real version of this game, which is great for advanced students!  

These are great games for a TEFL teacher to have in his or her “back pocket” to avoid emergencies or empty class time. You don’t need any special materials, and students will enjoy the chance to get up and move around.

For more information on how to adopt lessons and activities for particular age groups such as young learners or teenagers, check out our newest Specialized Certificates in Teaching English to Young Learners and Teenagers.