Sunday, 27 May 2012

What to do when you have NO TIME to prepare your class

Image: 'Reloj.cp'
In a lot of people's minds, an outstanding teacher is a somebody who devotes all of her time to teaching and has practically no life. If that’s what you believe, then you will agree I have turned into a master teacher! It seems that preparing material for the ICT course I’m delivering, and grading exams (it’s the end of the 1st term in Argentina) is taking more time than I had thought. The truth is I am working awfully hard!  I go to school, deliver classes,go back home... and start working again! At the end of the day, I am so exhausted that I just want to have a cup of tea (or some “mate”),  wind down and go to bed. There’s not much time left to read (or write) posts, plan lessons or design engaging extra material for my English classes.

I suppose the easy way out would be to follow the course book and use the resources there, but what if you don’t want to or it doesn’t provide enough interesting material? Well, after teaching EFL for many years I have a couple of lifesaving resources in my bag of tricks. If you haven't tried them yet, do it RIGHT NOW!!

  • What you can do with internet access at school (and a projector or a good computer lab) or a TV and DVD player: Have a look at “Movie Segments for Warm-ups and Follow-ups” and “Movie Segments to Assess Grammar Goals”. These two blogs by Claudio Azevedo have so much interesting material! The first one focuses on film scenes you can use to prepare students for the topic you will discuss in class (brainstorm or activate schemata) or to use as a follow-up activity (to practise speaking, for example). The sidebar on the right shows all topics covered there and the number of segments on each particular theme. There’s always a pre-watch and a  while/post-watch activity. Some videos are quite challenging, but many come with English subtitles. The other blog is even better and I have used the material there plenty of times. You also have a list of topics in the sidebar on the left.  All the videos are graded (elementary, intermediate,etc) and there’s a warning if the material may only be used with adults. There are so many wonderful segments I’m sure I’ll find something suitable for any class. You can print the activities Claudio has prepared or prepare your own (I usually adapt them a little bit ). The only negative thing is the video quality, which is mostly low, but as the films he includes are very popular, you may have the DVDs at home or find better-quality segments on YouTube. You may download the segments and use a TV and DVD player to work with the scenes you need but, of course, that requires more time to prepare your class.
  • What you can do without internet access at school (and no material whatsoever): Imagine you want your students to practise a grammar or vocabulary topic. In the past I used to prepare endless handouts with plenty of exercises. Was it tiring? Yes. Were students engaged? Unfortunatelly, not always. Well, forget about this time-consuming and nonproductive task. What I normally do now when students need to revise something we have been working on for some time is to make them prepare the material! How? I divide them into groups and ask each group to create 2 exercises (an “easy” and a “more difficult” one). I monitor the groups, answer questions if necessary and check the activities are fine ( they also write the "key" to each exercise). I give them extra marks for original material.Then, usually next class, they swap exercises with another group. Students learn a lot, love being able to challenge their friends and enjoy so much the creative aspect of the activity!

So, what do YOU do when you have absolutely no time to prepare your class?


  1. I cannot feel more identified with your post. There are certain times during the school year when preparing tests, marking them, filling out forms, writing reports and meetings with the heads of the schools seem to define our role as teachers. Fortunately, this is temporary, but leaves as with no time to prepare our lessons. So, I always turn to the vast list of web pages with invaluable resources. Just to mention a couple of them, I suggest where you can find lesson plans, printable worksheets and you can involve your students in collaborative projects with other classes.
    I also suggest http:// where you can find printables organised into different categories, lesson plans and projects.
    If students have access to Internet at school, they can go to http:// where they can make posters and magazine covers as a way of integrating the contents they are working with.
    They can also work with listening activities at
    The activity you suggest is great. I have found group work very effective and if students have to compete with each other, and they can get extra marks according to their merit is even more challenging.

    Cheers =)

    Maria Eva.

    1. Wow! Wonderful resourses, María Eva!Thanks for sharing!!! I'll definitelly be using some of the material you recommend.

  2. Hi Ana, I don't work at schools anymore, but I do understand what you're going through. NIce post, especially the tip of Claudio Azevedo's blog.

    1. Thanks for visiting the blog and taking some time to comment, Luisa! I'm so glad you liked the post! Well, Claudio Azevedo's blogs are simply GREAT. I use them all the time.