Two Types of Extension Activities
There are two types of extension activities you can use in the TEFL/ESOL classroom:
- Activities that are planned as part of the lesson to extend and underline the language point you are teaching. These activities form part of the lesson plan and should flow logically from the previous section of the lesson.
- Spontaneous, seemingly off-the-cuff activities usually occur towards the end of the lesson when the students have finished the main part of the lesson more quickly than expected.
Another way to think about these two types of extension activities may be to say that ‘planned extensions’ tend to be open-ended and designed to use as much or as little time as is available at the end of the lesson, whereas spontaneous extensions are short fillers which are not expected to last more than five or ten minutes.
It can be frustrating and a bit embarrassing if our students finish the tasks we have set them way ahead of schedule. We have all been in that situation from time to time, and while we try to appear calm and in control, like the duck on water, beneath the surface we are furiously paddling and trying to think what to do next. We may still have ten minutes (or more) before the end of the lesson. What should we get our students to do? How can we make valuable use of the time, justify whatever we tell them to do next and make it appear to segue neatly into the topic we have been covering?
In this article, we give some quick and easy ideas for activities that can slot neatly into the end of most TEFL English lessons, and which can fit with lots of different topics across a range of ability levels.
As mentioned in the first paragraph there are two types of extension activities, those which are pre-planned as part of the lesson and those which are spontaneous responses to students finishing the planned part of the lesson too quickly. One way to avoid the potential stress of the second type is to always plan a fairly open-ended activity for the final section of the lesson. In simple terms, make all extensions, planned extensions.
Build up a selection of worksheets, puzzles, games and short tasks that can be given to early finishers. Or have an ongoing project that students can get on with when they have finished the main part of the lesson.
Extension Ideas in Alphabetical Order
Is there something your students can paint or draw that is clearly connected with the main theme of the lesson? Could they design a poster or a flyer? Could they draw a simple cartoon to reinforce the key language point? Is there something in their workbook or worksheet that could be coloured in? (This is particularly useful and calming for younger students). Do you have any spare paper to hand and/or other materials the students might need?
Black or White-Board Games
If time is short (less than five minutes till the end of the lesson) you could play a quick round of hangman on the board, highlighting the key vocabulary from the lesson. You could of course extend that by allowing the students to take turns at the board. Alternatively, you could play a few rounds of ‘backs to the board’ where a chosen student must ask their classmates questions in order to guess the word you have written on the board. Or you could set up a board-race in which teams of students compete, running to the board to write up vocabulary associated with the theme of the lesson.
Can you organise an impromptu piece of drama to complement what you have been talking about in the lesson? Could you mime something associated with the lesson and ask the students to guess what it is? The winning student could then mime something else connected with the lesson. Perhaps in pairs, the students could write a short dialogue and then you dip your pen in the register to randomly choose a few students to perform their dialogue. Perhaps you could do the same activity without the students writing anything down at all.
For lower levels variations on ‘Simon Says’ are always popular. You could also ‘play stand up/sit down if…’ For intermediate students play ‘change chairs if…’. For more advanced students speak or write a sentence associated with the theme of the day and the students have to find the deliberate mistake you make while speaking or writing. They can then continue, making up their own incorrect sentences.
Reiterate the key grammar point of the day. Get the students to formulate the grammar rule itself based on the contents of the lesson. Ask lots of concept-checking questions to make sure everyone in the class has understood correctly. Write a few sentences on the board and ask the students to tell you if they are correct or not and why. Get students to test/question/quiz each other.
Mumbling Dictation. Read out a short text connected with the lesson theme. The students must copy it down as accurately as possible, but you cough and mumble over key phrases. The students have to predict, guess or ask appropriate questions in order to find the missing vocabulary.
Play a song or piece of music connected with the lesson contents, or ask the students to suggest one and play it via YouTube, Instagram or TikTok.
Quickly divide the students into teams and ask a few quick-fire questions based on the lesson of the day. Ask each team to come up with one question to ask the other teams. If you have a bit more time (or are prepared in advance) set up a blockbusters/noughts and crosses/tic-tac-toe/tornado/battleships type of grid on the board where one half of the class competes against the other half.
Have students read aloud sections from the lesson’s main text (or have a short extra text prepared). Get them to concentrate on pronunciation, emphasising stressed syllables and key phrases. Or you could read a text changing keywords as you go along and the students have to stop you and explain where you have made deliberate mistakes.
Allocate roles to the students and ask them to comment on the main theme of the lesson from the point of view you have assigned to them. Or in pairs or small groups have students write and read out a short roleplay associated with the lesson theme.
Dictate words that have been covered in the lesson and ask the students to write them largely on a piece of paper/writing slate which they can hold up for you to check the spelling. Alternatively dictate words letter by letter and ask students to predict the word before you finish it. They then have to complete the spelling of the word in writing or orally.
Nominate one or two students to ‘be the teacher’ and give a spoken summary of what they have done and learned during the lesson. Play ‘speak for a minute/30 seconds’, in which students have to speak without pause or interruption on a subject connected with the main theme of the lesson. This can be done in groups where points are awarded for fluency and deducted for long pauses.
Having extra worksheets prepared for early finishers is always useful but how about asking your students to design and prepare worksheets for their classmates or lower-level learners?
Get the students to write a summary of what they have learned in the lesson and/or put the key grammar or language point into one sentence. Write several keywords or expressions from the lesson on the board ask the students to find and write down synonyms for them and use each of the new words in a sentence. Ask students to write down anything they still don’t understand so you can follow it up in the next lesson.
Extensions for the four skills.
We hope all that is written above will give you plenty of ideas for things to incorporate as extensions within your TEFL/ESOL lesson plans or to use spontaneously on those (hopefully rare) occasions when your students finish their other activities ahead of schedule. We look at some of those activities in more detail in our free download available below, in which extension activities are organised according to the four skills of English: reading, writing, speaking and listening.
Written by Larry Walder