Tuesday, 4 October 2011

emergency! emergency! - a fail-proof activity for when you must teach that emergency class.

Have you ever been in the position where you must take over a colleague's class with no prior warning?

Obviously you have no lesson plan, and very likely no indication of what the class has been working on. Sometimes you don't even have access to a copy of whatever coursebook students have been using, or any materials AT ALL. You're lucky indeed if you even have a marker in your hand.

It's happened to me, and more often than I care to recall.

Here is what I might do:

NOTE: NEVER let on to the students how horrified you are. For indeed, you have no call to be horrified at all. This is a case where less is more: you are free to enjoy a truly communicative student-centered class.

If the class is unknown to you have an 

  1. Model with yourself: Write on the board 4 things true about yourself and 2 untrue, in random order.
  2. Encourage Students to ask you questions to determine which are true and which are not.
  3. Now have Students do the same. If the class is small Ss can present their information to the whole group, or else break into smaller groups. 


  1. ask students to tell you what they've been working on
  2. brainstorm all information possible on the board.
  3. ask students to identify what they feel they most need to work on, what is most interesting, what is most useful. You can give each S a marker to circle what they like and dislike, and underline what they need to work on etc.
  1. Now have each Ss write (a) question/s based on the material developed on the board. Check questions with a partner for accuracy.
  2. PARELLEL CHAIRS*: have students sit in two rows facing each other with their question on a piece of paper in front of them. Discuss question with partner directly in front.  Give them three or four minutes as necessary. 
  3. Call out CHANGE: everyone stands and takes a step to the left, leaving the question behind and moving to the next chair, a new partner and a new question.
  4. repeat til end.
  5. REPORT SESSION. in Pairs discuss what question was most interesting, what anwer was most interesting.
Finally pairs report to the class.

TASK: based on the  material you have covered, and depending on its nature, have groups write a brief passage or roleplay based on material that arose. Present to the class or share with other for feedback.

 LANGUAGE FOCUS: as necessary work on elements identified by students.

have Ss give each other feedback on what is produced.

CLASS OVER before you even knew it! =)

* this is a wonderful technique I know not with whom to credit, but whoever they be: God Bless 'em; it's fabulous.


  1. Hi Lucy!

    Thanks for putting this up--it's got some good ideas, and I'll use them if I ever am "on-call" again.

    I'm really liking the blog--keep it up!