Keeping a group of students busy for a short time can be daunting, which is why every teacher should have some activities that they can immediately use. The following ten low-prep activities have been used with great success by teachers with both big classes and small groups of various ages.
I’ve been a teacher and lecturer for sixteen years and know how often teachers are unexpectedly tasked to supervise classes without having time to prepare. So, I compiled all the best activities I could find into a book titled “100 No-Prep Classroom Activities” in the description below.
📖 100 No-prep Classroom Activities Book ► https://amzn.to/34iCQjK
Three Phase Charades
Each student has to write a word on five slips of paper. It can be any word, noun, name, or thing – but it has to be something that everyone in the class is supposed to know. Fold the slips in half and add them into a bowl or hat. They will reuse the slips for all three phases, so tell them not to tear or destroy the slips.
Then divide the students into small teams to play charades in three phases.
Phase 1 – One member from each group gets 1 minute to explain the meaning of words on the slips of paper taken from the bowl. It doesn’t matter if a student pulls a slip with a word he or she has written, that is just the luck of the draw.
After 1 minute, it’s the next group’s turn. Continue until all the slips are taken and all the words got explained.
Count how many words each team got correct.
Next, return all the slips to the bowl or hat.
Phase 2 – One member from a group has to explain as many slips as possible in 1 minute, but this time they may only use a SINGLE WORD. If they accidentally use more than one word, they fail and it’s the next team’s turn. If their group doesn’t guess correctly, they may not pass and take a new slip – tough luck! 😉
At the end of this phase, again count the number of slips each group has answered correctly.
Phase 3 – One member from each group has to explain slips from the bowl, by only using actions – no words. Each team gets one minute until all the slips are taken.
At the end of the activity, tally up the scores from all three phases to find the winning team!
Select two students to come to the front of the class. Hand each one a flashcard or paper with vocabulary on it. They should place it against their chests without looking at it. Let the two students stand back-to-back (with their flashcards held against their chests, the word also facing forward).
The teacher counts down “3….2….1… turn!” Both students have to take a step out with every count, just like a pistol duel. When they reach the last step, the teacher says, “Turn around!” Both students then spin around and show their flashcards to the opponent. The first one to read the other’s flashcard wins the duel!
Make it fun by telling students to dramatically “die” when they lose.
You can split the class into two teams, each winner gets a point for their team. The team with the most points wins.
Make a list
Write a few ideas on the board and place the students into groups. Take some suggestions from the class so they feel included. They have to discuss and think of the eight essential items that are needed for the following situations:
- Pack a suitcase for a three-day trip,
- pack a basket for a picnic,
- pack a survival kit in a backpack,
- what to take going to the beach,
- what to take going hiking,
- what to take traveling with a baby,
- what are the essential items in your schoolbag?
- For example, if the item is a handbag: What are eight things a woman needs in her handbag? Answer: Her wallet, driver’s license, lipstick, hand cream, candy, money, and wet tissues.
- Or, if it is a situation like going for a job interview, do research on the company:
- • Dress business-like formal
- • Take a copy of your resume
- • Take a notepad
- • Arrive early
- • Be polite
- • Answer questions confidently.
- Once the groups are done, let each group give feedback and compare.
Draw a Monster
Pick two students. They go to the whiteboard to draw a monster according to what the rest of the class tells them. Guide the class by asking questions about the monsters. How many eyes does it have? How many arms and legs? Is it hairy? Does it have spots? Is it tall? Is it short or tall? Big or small? If you have different colored markers. Let them select the color and draw the monster according to the class’ suggestions, making it a collaborative monster.
Then place students into smaller groups. They have to select one of the monsters, give it a name and create more information about it. What does it eat? Where does it live? What is it scared of? They should make a fun backstory for the monster. Warn them not to get too graphic, however, as it is a friendly monster.
An alternative drawing game is Teacher’s Picture. Pair students up. One will be the drawer and the other the explainer. They decide who is who. The drawers close their eyes and look away from the board. While they do that, you draw a picture on the board. It can be a scene of something happening – make it interesting. Take a picture of the drawing with your phone and tell the explainers to remember what they see, then erase the drawing. The explainers then have to explain to the drawers how to remake your original picture. Once they have completed their pictures, vote on who came closest to yours. Show them what the original drawing looked like and pick the best one.
In this activity, teams must explain words to their friends, taking turns to sit in a ‘hot seat’ facing them. This team exercise is very popular with younger learners but can get rowdy if not controlled. Remind them that points will be deducted if they shout too loudly.
Place students in teams and put a chair for each team at the front of the class, facing the students. These chairs are the “hot seats.” The teacher then writes vocabulary words on the board which teams explain to those in the hot seats, who have to guess what the word is.
You can either use the same word for each team or give them different words. The first one to guess the correct answer, gets a point. Rotate team members so that everyone gets a chance.
I like giving the students one word per team member. Then it is a race to see which team is the first to finish.
Who sits where? This activity comes from Kev the Rev, a teacher who often shares ideas on our live stream every Sunday at 1 pm GMT.
For this activity, place the students into groups of three or four, and hand each group a blank A4 paper. On your whiteboard, write the names of any celebrities or well-known characters.
These could include The Pope, Justin Bieber, a Sumo wrestler, Hello Kitty, Harry Potter, Tarzan, a dinosaur, YOU, 007, or whoever is a hot topic that week. You can also ask your students to call out different celebrities they would like to use.
Once you have written all these names – Tell the students that the celebrities and characters are going to have a dinner party, and it’s up to them to decide who will sit where. They have to arrange the guests around a table, giving reasons why they place certain guests next to each other.
You can also draw a circle or a table on the board with numbers all around, so students can easily write where the characters will be seated. They should be mindful of what the guests could talk about, why some will enjoy each other’s company, and why others should sit far away from one another.
This is a fun activity to test your students’ creativity and reasoning. Once all the teams are done, they will have to explain why they have decided on their particular seating arrangements.
Draw a card
Playing card games can be used in many ways, but in this case, students talk about daily activities to learn everyday actions. First, take a normal deck of playing cards. Next, write 13 daily actions or household chores on the whiteboard, 13 for each card in a suit, from Number 2 to the Ace.
2 – Brush your teeth
3 – Get dressed
4 – Do the washing
5 – Hang up laundry
6 – Sweep the floor
7 – Wash the dishes
8 – Make the bed
9 – Take out the trash
10 – Take a shower
Jack – Cook dinner
Queen – Set the table
King – Eat dinner
Ace – Walk the dog
To end, designate each corner of the classroom a different suit. The one corner is for Hearts and that’s the kitchen; the other corner is for Diamonds, and that’s outside. The opposite corner is for Spades and is bedroom, with the last corner is for Clubs and is the bathroom.
Place the cards on a table in the middle of class. Students have to pick up a card, and then go to the corner designated to that suit where they have to act out their activity. Ask students to tell you what they are doing.
For example, the student who picks up the Ace of Clubs can say, “I am walking the dog in the bathroom.”
If things were different
This activity gets the students to think out of the box to create an alternate history for a famous person.
Place the students into groups, then they have to think of a celebrity they know and write a list of what that celebrity has achieved. It could be a sports star, a singer, a politician, or anyone that’s really famous. Walk around and make sure that each group thinks of a different person. Once all the groups are done, let them report back to the class about their celebrity and or their accomplishments. Write the names on the board so that you can see who they’ve picked.
The second part of the activity is for each group to think of an alternate history for each celebrity; what would have happened if something different took place in their lives, or if they didn’t achieve something. Note that not every alternative history has to end in a disaster; they could just have become something else.
When all the groups are done, they report back. Give an award for the most creative or well-explained history. Make sure that each student gets a chance to explain something about their celebrity’s alternate history.
Split the class into groups of four students. Write a sentence on the board, for example:
“There was an old lady living in a house in the forest with her granddaughter.”
Each student then describes a part of the story. The first student describes the old lady, who is she and what does she look like? What does she do? Student B describes the house. What does the house look like? Is it big or small? Student C describes the forest; Is it a big forest? Is it dark? Are there flowers or animals? Student D describes the granddaughter. What is her name? What does she look like? What is her personality? What does she do at the house?
Then continue with the story:
“One day a young man knocks at the door.”
What does he look like? Who is he? Where is he from? Why is he at the house? They then have to work to finish the story; each student adds one sentence until it’s complete.
Once they finished the story, place all the students into new groups where they have to retell the story they have created with their old group. This is a great way for students to collectively build a story and learn to share it afterward.
Interview with Verbs
Introduction: This activity trains students to use different vocabulary in an engaging way. They choose a famous person they would like to interview. It can be anybody of their choice, and the person doesn’t necessarily have to be alive. (Advise them to choose someone they admire or know a lot about so that they have more material to talk about.)
Place students in pairs, the one is the celebrity and the other an interviewer. Write about twenty verbs on the whiteboard. They must each then use at least ten of these verbs to create questions for their partners.
Decide – “When did you decide…?”
Hate – “What do you hate…?”
Love – “Who loves you the most…?”
Offer – “What can you offer us…?”
Prefer – “What do you prefer between…?”
Move – “Why did you move the…?”
Win – “Who won the…?”
Continue – “Can we continue with…?”
Buy – “What did you buy for…?”
Wait – “Can you wait for…?”
Consider – “Did you consider…?”
Change – “How did you change…?”
These are only example questions. Students must create their own.