Teachers often get surprised with extra classes or substitute teacher-duty and then find themselves in need of no-prep activities. The following ten No-Prep classroom activities have been used often used with great effect. As the name implies, these games can be used with groups with no preparation needed and were selected from my new book titled ‘100 No-prep Classroom Activities‘. See the link to Amazon in the description below this article.
The teacher tells an interesting story to the students and they have to memorize it. You can read a story from a book, or tell them an exciting experience from your own life.
Next, place them in pairs or groups and let them retell the story, using their own words. After that, you can break them up and make new groups. They then have to retell the story in those groups.
A good idea is to record yourself when you tell the story the first time, then replay the original version at the end. This is a fun activity because students practice their listening skills and they learn how to substitute different words while keeping the meaning intact.
2. What’s different
Split the class into two teams; let them line up to face each other. Tell them to inspect the other team and make sure they notice all the details.
Then, one team looks away while the other team changes things about themselves; they can trade places, exchange jackets, untie their shoes, undo some buttons, switch their watches from one wrist to the other; whatever noticeable changes they can make.
Once the other group turns around, they have to spot all the changes they can see. Count how many they’ve gotten right and then see how many they’ve missed. They switch. The team that noticed the most changes, wins.
An anagram is a word or phrase that is formed by rearranging the letters of a word to construct a different word or phrase. Students have to find as many words as possible from the letters of the word or phrase you wrote on the board.
Split the class into a few groups depending on the size. Each group picks a writer. Then, write a long word or phrase on the board. Students have to make new words using the letters of the word or phrase. Each writer takes a whiteboard marker to record the answers their team shouts out. Teams may not use the same words. The group with the most words at the end of the activity, wins.
For example: I LOVE MY TEACHER
Possible words: creatively, achiever, alchemy, cheerio, army, cola, come, mayo, live, heel, three, etc.
4. Small talk
Start by writing some topics for conversation on the board: Sport, movies, weekend, travel, Portugal. These are only an example to give students a place to start from.
Then, place two pairs of students into a group of four. The first pair decides on a topic, and the other pair has to discuss it with each other for one minute. The pair that picked the topic must make notes of the discussion in order to report back to the rest of the class. (You can change the amount of time depending on the level of the students.)
This is a great activity because you don’t need to prepare anything and the learners pick the topics. The rest of the class scores the feedback from students. This encourages them to respond with something funny or interesting. The value of this activity is that students are fully involved and motivated to impress their peers.
This setup could be used with any number of students. A pair could decide topics for each other, and if you have an odd class, three students can take turns picking topics for one another.
5. Things in common
First, place students randomly in groups, preferably in groups of three if using the Venn diagram method. Give them some time to discover some interesting things they have in common with their partner.
They can talk about hobbies, experiences, places they’ve been to, things they’ve done, things about their lives, their families, and so on. Students must find at least three interesting things that they have in common. Once they are done, let them share their similarities with the class.
Another method is to let students create a Venn diagram of things that are unique to each student and, in the middle, write those things that they have in common.
You can even place learners into groups of three to determine what they all have in common with one another. This is a good activity because we should celebrate the things we have in common and not just focus on our differences.
Students close their eyes and count down from 20 to 1. But, only one person at a time can call out the next number, so they count “20, 19, 18, 17” but when two students say a number at the same time, the class has to restart.
If there are many students in class, the starting number can be equal to the number of students in the class. Once they say a number, they are done and may open their eyes.
For example: If there are sixteen students in the class, they can start counting down from 16 to 1. Students get very anxious when they get near the end. To make it a bit more stressful, you can add zero as the last number, after which one student has to say “Victory!”
The Baskin Robbins Version
This is a fun variation of the Countdown game. All the students start the chant by saying “Baskin Robbins 31!”.
Starting on one side of the class, students have to count up from 1 to 31. The one who has to count 31 is the loser. Students get to count 1, 2 or 3 numbers at a time, but they have to do it quickly.
So, for example, the first student counts “1, 2,” the second student “3, 4, 5,” the third “6, 7,” the fourth “8,” the fifth “9, 10, 11” and so on. They continue until the last student counts “31” and is the unlucky loser. When playing multiple rounds, the loser can start the next round.
Starting with a chosen letter, students have to think of words in different categories. Scattergories is a fun activity that can easily keep individual students occupied, but I prefer using it with pairs of students to improve teamwork and camaraderie.
After placing learners in pairs, pick 5 to 10 categories and write them on the board. Each team copies the categories on a sheet of paper. Then, pick a random letter.
Students have to write a word for each category, starting with that letter. For example, if it is the letter “C”, they have to think of words starting with the letter “C” for the given categories. For example:
Only unique answers score points, challenging students to think out-of-the-box.
(There are 60 different topics for Scattergories in my book ‘100 No-Prep Activities’, See the link in the description below.)
8. Line Up
: Ask your students to stand next to a wall. They then have to arrange themselves according to whatever rule you give them. Let them arrange themselves according to the following:
1. Height; shortest to tallest.
2. Alphabetically according to their names, A to Z.
3. According to their birthdays.
4. Their telephone numbers.
A creative idea is to tell them to think of an animal but not to tell their friends. They then have to act like the animal. After a minute or so, tell them to look at their friends acting like animals, and arrange themselves according to the size they think their animals are. Everyone reveals it afterwards.
Use anything you can think of for them to rearrange themselves. Playing games and doing fun activities in the classroom is a great way to keep your students engaged.
9. Expanding Sentences
Write a simple sentence on the board. Then, one by one, ask students to add words, phrases, or clauses to the sentence so it gradually expands and becomes more complex.
“Eric is a teacher.”
“My brother Eric is a teacher.”
“My younger brother Eric is a teacher.”
“My younger brother Eric is a teacher in South Korea.”
“My younger brother Eric is a teacher in South Korea, who loves sweets.”
“My younger brother Eric is a Science teacher in South Korea, who loves sweets, but lost his teeth.”
“My younger brother Eric is a Science teacher in South Korea, who loves sweets, but lost his teeth in a terrible bowling accident.”
Now that you’ve modeled the activity, place the students in groups to create their own sentences. You can give them a starter sentence or they can make their own and afterwards share the expansions with the class.
10. Who’s the leader
This is a simple, but fun game. To begin, pick one a student in class to be the detective. Once the detective has left the room, the class selects another student to be the leader which they have to copy.
When the detective student comes back into the class, he or she has to ask the class some questions to find out who the leader is,
While he or she is asking questions and looking around, the class has to copy exactly what the leader is doing. If the leader crosses his legs, the rest of the class has to follow. If he raises his hand while the detective isn’t looking, the class should follow. They secretly imitate the moves the leader makes.
To confuse the detective, other students can fake making moves to confuse the detective and hide the class leader. The detective has three guesses to find out who the leader is before changing.
Here is the link to my new book ‘100 No-prep Classroom Activities’: