ESL Almost No Prep Activities

For Japanese English Students

ESL Almost No Prep Activities - Teaching English in Japan

To teach in Japan, is to leave your home and your family behind to do something you really love and really believe in. That said you also need some great activities you can rely on, and if they don`t require any prep, or just a little preparation, that is all the better!

by Conrad Matsumoto

1. Roll Call Questions

Have students answer simple questions such as their favorite: animal, color, musician, etc. Write questions on the board and when you call a student`s name, they answer the question instead of saying "here." Everyone learns a little about each other and most importantly, you get to learn students names!

2. ESL Almost no Prep Activities - Memory Matching

First prepare 5 or more questions with answers. Number the Q&A in random order. Next. put the numbers on the board. Split the class in half (or row by row). Each half takes turns choosing 2 numbers from the board. Each number is a question or answer. After the number is chosen, read the sentence that goes with it (which you prepared). Students listen carefully and match the question with its correct answer.

E.g. Choose one number and listen to the sentence. Then choose another number and listen to the sentence. If the two sentences match, say: "match."

3. Yamanote Line

Make a circle. Pick a topic (e.g. sports, countries, food, animals, etc.). Get the beat going by clapping two times and then a pause. At the pause, say a word related to the topic. Go around the circle saying a different word related to the topic. Rules are: "Be on the beat and don`t repeat." If more than 16 in the class, it`s better to make two circles.

4. ESL Almost no Prep Activities - A-Z Sit down

Write the letters of the alphabet on the board. Ask students to stand up and in pairs (or individually) yell out a word that begins with one of the letters. They can then sit down. To make it more challenging, students can only say words that are adjectives.

5. Word/Number Call

Make groups of 4. Call out a word or a number and the first student in each group runs to the board and writes or draws on the board, whatever has been called out.

6. ESL Almost no Prep Activities - Quick Line-ups

Make groups of 4 or more (or the whole class). Teams form lines as quickly as they can. Topics such as birthday months (Jan. to Dec.), hand size, smallest to biggest, first names (alphabetical order), etc. work well. For example, the teacher yells out: "Birthday line up go!" The first team to finish lining up in order sits down. The teacher or a student can be the checker.

7. STOP!

Write 5 topics on the board. For example: food, colors, countries, sports, and animals. Pick a letter, for example: B, G, P, R, or S. Students work together in pairs/groups as fast as they can, to write a word that begins with the letter you chose for each topic. When students finish, they yell STOP! Check to see if words are OK. After, you can elicit more words for each topic.

8. ESL Almost no Prep Activities - Total Physical Response

Make groups of 4 or more. One student in each group goes to the front of the room. Give one command. The first student to do it correctly scores a point for his/her team (if you want to keep track of points). Then the next student goes up for a new command. Some sample commands are: 9. Pair Cards

Prepare pairs of cards. They can be opposites (big/small) or question and answers (What`s the capital of Japan?/Tokyo). Give one card to each student and have them find their match. That`s their partner for the class.

10. ESL Almost no Prep Activities - Hot Seat

One student sits in front of the room in the "hot seat." The rest of the class stands up. They can only sit down after asking a question. Questions cannot be repeated. You can also pair students up to make questions.

11. Trivia Slap

Have trivia questions prepared. Make groups of 4. Give a fly swatter to each group`s leader (alternate each question). Ask a question and the first one to swat gets a chance to answer. No penalty for wrong answers. Encourage students to help their classmates. After correct answer is given, the fly swatter is passed to the next person. You can keep track by giving a point for whichever team answers first correctly or just play for fun.

12. ESL Almost no Prep Activities - Picture Racing

Make groups of 4. Write a word on the board, for example, "CAT." First student in each row goes to the board and draws a picture of a word that begins with "C." (Cat is not allowed.) For example: "CAR" and then writes the word car next to the drawing. The second member draws a picture for the letter "A," for example, "apple" and then writes that word. This continues with the third member doing the same thing for the letter "T." The last member will draw a picture of a CAT and make a sentence using the word cat, for example: I have a cute cat.

The first team to finish is the winner. Note: Teams cannot have the same picture, so the first team to draw a picture gets to use it. Team members are encouraged to help each other. You can also give bonus points for correct spelling or interesting pictures.

13. One-minute fluency

Otherwise known as extemporaneous speaking or ad-lib. Have a longish list of random topics such as: summer, movies, cherry blossoms, sports, love. Make groups of 4. One at a time, they will be given a topic and speak for one full minute with the goal being FLUENCY. They should keep talking and not worry about mistakes. Give some pointers in case they get stuck: "Let me see," "well," or even just repeat the same sentence again.

14. Out the Door

Ask a question to each student as he/she leaves (or have the student ask you a question). For lower levels, write the question on the board so they have time to think of their answers.

Examples: What are you doing this weekend?


In today`s class, I really enjoyed....

This lecture was presented by Conrad Matsumoto at the Tokyo ELT Expo on November 3rd, 2007. Matsumoto was an instructor at Kitasato University, Tokai University, and the owner of Conrad`s English House in Odawara, Kanagawa.

To Basic Grammar in Use

From ESL almost no prep activities to How to Teach English in Japan (home)

To the Machidanian

From esl almost no prep activities to Teaching English in Japan

To Teach in Japan

To English Grammar Exercises