One thing I’ve learned as a teacher is that things just don’t always go as you planned. Maybe there was a fire drill right in the middle of the class and now you only have eight minutes left, so teaching that lesson is not going to happen. Maybe there was an assembly, and out of your three French 1 classes, you’re only going to see one today. Maybe one class just works faster. Maybe it’s the last few days before winter break, kids have taken their finals, but they still come to your class to do … what? What do you do when you have extra time, but teaching a structured lesson doesn’t make sense or is discouraged by administration? The reasons for classes getting out of sync go on and on. Some days, you just have to have a quick activity to fill in that extra time. That’s why it is so important to have some ready-to-use activities for just these days. Here are some of my go-to activities.
To practice verbs:
This one requires so little prep that you can use it in a pinch. Just pass out index cards or small slips of paper and give one (or a few) to each student. On each card, have students write a verb you’ve learned. Take a minute to pull out duplicates, then put them in a box that students can draw from. Call a student up to the front to act out the verb while the others guess.
We play this one a lot with our verbs. I call out random vocabulary words and have the students show me the word in action. It’s fun, requires no prep, and gets out the wiggles that even big kids get.
3. Conjugation drills
Do these on the board as a competition or with individual whiteboards. If you don’t want to stick to verbs, you can just do a quick spelling review with any unit vocabulary you’re teaching.
To practice speaking:
4. Speaking cards
Pass out speaking cards and have students question one of their neighbors or have one student at a time ask his/her question to the class. Have more time? Do a concentric circles activity where students form two circles, one inside of another. Each student will pair up with the partner in front of him/her, then students take turns asking their questions. When both partners have answered, the outside circle moves one partner to the right, and the questions continue.
5. Turn and talk
Put up silly images and ask students to turn and describe the image to a partner. I have a huge slideshow of funny images I’ve found that I can just pop open anytime I need to. It took me about 30 minutes to create, but I can use it in a pinch anytime, and I made it years ago! And no, it’s not in my TpT store, because the images aren’t mine to share. 🙂
These are great if you have an entire class period extra with one of your preps. Teach three sections of French 2, but you see one of them more than the others this week? Have students create skits. This is fun, no-prep, and keeps classes in sync.
Ideas for skits:
Use a vocab theme. Maybe you’re studying food-related vocabulary. Have students role play waiter and customer, or do a dinner-time skit at the family table.
Do a vocab challenge. Post three to five MUST-USE words on the board and require each group to incorporate the words into their skits.
Put themes or topics in a hat and have groups randomly choose.
Have students propose a list of themes. Write them on the board and let groups choose their topics.
To practice writing:
7. Journal entries
Weekly journal entries have always been in my lessons, and when my schedule is disrupted, that day might become journal day. It’s easy to skip a class if need be, because they aren’t missing direct teaching or a structured practice activity. If you find yourself with a few minutes to spare after the journals, ask a few students to share.
8. Snowball writing
These are so much fun to do when students have some proficiency. I don’t usually do this until about the middle of the second year. To start, give the class a story starter (or use those turn and talk images). Give students a few minutes to write about the topic. I usually give about 3-4 minutes, but it will depend on student proficiency and the time you’ve got to spend. At the end of the time limit you’ve chosen, have students ball up their papers (like snowballs) and toss them in the air. Then, each student will find a new paper and continue the story. You can continue as long as time allows. Take a few minutes to share, because the stories are usually hilarious!
To have fun:
9. Music videos
There are so many videos available on Youtube. If you can access this readily at school, then it takes seconds to pull up a video to watch. Try to choose a song you’re familiar with so you can discuss it afterwards. If students aren’t proficient enough to analyze the lyrics, you can still introduce them briefly to the artist and tell a bit about his/her background. My students LOVE watching videos, and introducing them to the diversity of the French-speaking world is so easy this way!
10. Lip sync contest
In foreign language class, music is a great tool to help students learn idiomatic expressions, practice listening comprehension, and gain cultural awareness. If your students have already learned some songs, of if they are comfortable reading lyrics of popular French songs they might already be familiar with in English (like Vive le Vent), then a lip sync contest can be a ton of fun. Just put on the music, get some contestants, and if you really want to have fun, have some students play celebrity judges.
To get organized:
11. Binder organization
Give students time to clean out those binders! If you’re anything like me, you use a lot of vocabulary and grammar packets. These are so handy, and they can be great sources of information, but they can get quite heavy in a binder with a lot of other subjects. When students begin struggling to find papers quickly, your instructional time gets eaten up, so taking time to keep students organized really saves time in the long run.
Don’t want students to throw out those old packets? Keep a file folder for each student in a file drawer or milk crate and they can grab them when they need them. This way, they aren’t carrying around packets you’ve finished, but they can still access them before big exams.
12. Organize or decorate your room
Some days, it is just nice to put on music and tidy up your classroom. I’m not saying you should just put students to work when your schedule gets out of whack, but once in a while, letting students hang posters, seasonal decorations, or make bulletin boards will give your students a feeling of ownership in their classroom. Plus, it frees up your planning time to make great lessons or grade papers. I’d call that a win-win. 🙂
What are your favorite ways to use those extra minutes of classtime?