Teaching English Tips
Time Management and Running Out of Work
When people ask me for teaching English tips, one of the most common
things they ask me is about timing
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Many new teachers find it very difficult to know how long the different
stages of their lessons will take, and often finish too early, or run
out of time.
There are a few things to do to help your lessons run to the time you
Of course, as you become more experienced you will estimate the timing
more accurately, but it is still useful to know a few tips to help if
you finish early.
Never run out of work
There is nothing worse than running out of work for your students to do.
Sometimes this is because you have misjudged how long something will
take, and sometimes it is because your students have found it easier
than you anticipated.
Many teachers keep a variety of card games in their bag to use as
fillers at the end of the lesson if they finish their other tasks. But
these don't always help your students as much as they should.
If you have a clear aim in mind when you use them then it's fine. But
if you don't, then they can actually cause problems, because students
forget the main focus and aim of the lesson and start thinking about
It is much more useful to extend the tasks you have been working on.
For example, if your students have been doing a reading activity
and finished the tasks too quickly, there are few things you can do:
- Ask students to work together in pairs to
create a quiz of comprehension questions or vocabulary
questions to ask another pair.
- Give a spelling
test based on words from the text.
- Put your students into teams and ask them
comprehension questions as a competition.
- Ask the students to cover the text and rewrite
as much as they can from memory, in their own words.
- Extend the discussion around the subject of the
- Give a dictation. Read some of the text to the
students and ask them to write it down without mistakes. (And without
looking at the text!)
If your last task is a role
, then swap the students around into different pairs or
groups and ask them to repeat the activity.
Ask some of them to perform it for the class, or vary it slightly and
ask them to repeat the exercise.
If your last activity is a listening
, then you can use it as a dictation activity, a
basis for discussions or role plays, or you can adapt some of the
reading activities mentioned above.
Error correction time
I always try to leave some time at the end of every lesson for a recap
of what has been covered.
In this section of the lesson I always include an error correction
During the lesson I note down mistakes I hear the students make, but I
do not always note who made the mistake.
I then write the incorrect phrases, sentences, or words (if it is a
punctuation error) on the board and ask the students to correct them in
This is a useful exercise because:
- It takes away the pressure and embarrassment
from individuals who may make more mistakes than others.
- It gives you an opportunity to recap the lesson.
- It enables the students to spend additional
time talking together in English.
- If they solve the problems together, they are
more likely to remember them.
- If the same mistakes are repeated, they will
remember them next time.
Of course, things don't always go according to your plan, and you may
find yourself with time to spare.
Whatever happens, the most important English teaching tips I can give
you are to be flexible, and evaluate each situation as you encounter it.