Teaching English Tips 

Time Management and Running Out of Work

Teaching English Tips When people ask me for teaching English tips, one of the most common things they ask me is about timing.

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Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All Tenses

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 have planned.

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 something else.


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 text.

  • 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 play, 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 activity, 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 time.

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 pairs.

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.

Final note

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.

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