What can you do to get students to class on time?

Our classes have exact starting times, yet many students seem to trickle into class.  Do you wonder why? Is it because of their schedules? Is it the teacher? Is it the class? I am not sure we’ll ever know the complete answer to these questions, but one thing we can do is make the first half hour of class interesting and a reason to arrive on time. Additionally, you can avoid wasting time waiting for the late students to arrive. What do you do the first 30 minutes of class? How do you manage the “trickle in” effect? Here are some ideas to get you thinking about that first half hour, and how to manage it.

Songs. Sing together, or play a song and create activities using the song. Have students tell you their favorite songs and then use the lyrics for English practice. Or, the class learn the lyrics to a new song, and practice it as class begins.

Current events. Discuss local and national events.  Use local/national news broadcasts as prompts. Create vocabulary practice using current events. Practice identifying new grammar structures, summarizing, retelling, predicting, changing tenses, etc.

Pronunciation.  Play pronunciation games, or choose different pronunciation issues to focus on and practice.

Topic discussion. Give the students a particular topic to discuss with a partner. Possibly include question prompts to get them talking.

Weekend report.  For the Monday class, create an activity about events from the past weekend. Students could do a short, impromptu writing about what happened over the weekend, or it could be a speaking activity. Practice particular grammar structures while reporting, as needed.

Photos of local landmarks or places to see. Take photos of places around town that students might be interested in learning about. Or, popular places to visit. Then, students can use the photos as writing prompts, speaking prompts, or discussion topics.  You could also use photos of places that students regularly visit, such as a favorite restaurant, club, workplace, etc., and create activities using those photos.

American culture. Students are always interested to learn about American culture. Think about general American culture topics, and also local cultural events and customs.

Share personal photos or stories. It seems the students like to learn about their teachers. Share photos from vacation, about your family, a hobby, or whatever inspires you.

Video clips. Students can write about video, discuss with another student, practice retelling the story, identify specific grammar used in the video, sequence the story, and more.

Show ‘n Tell. We learned it in kindergarten, but adults enjoy learning about each other and other cultures too.  They can bring something that they created themselves, or an item that is important to them. Or, something from their culture they want to talk about.

Introduce students to a new website for English practice. Have them practice on the computers in pairs or small groups.

Tell a story or a joke.

American history. Talk about key historical people in American history, events, celebrations, etc.

Photos. Take student photos and then use those photos for activities, such as describing picture, making predictions, etc. They always get a kick out of seeing themselves onscreen!

Audio. Use audio recordings of classmates talking, and then use them as a warm up or introduction to class (with their permission, of course). Have students read short stories, and then the others can answer questions about the story. Or, record a dialogue between students and create an activity around it. If you have a smartphone, there are multiple smartphone apps available for voice recording.

Card games or board games. Games that are instructional, or ‘just for fun”, as long as done in English, will provide additional practice for the students.  Lower level students like Go Fish with phonics cards, for example.

Thanks to the TESOL blog for the inspiration and some of the ideas! The link to the blog is here:




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