Break Time by Hall Houston

In classes that are 2 hours or longer, it’s wise to give students a short break. Even with the most hard-working classes, everybody needs time to visit the restroom or get a snack. And, of course, check the latest updates on Facebook.


Here, I would like to suggest that you give students a short task that they can do during the break. It should be something fairly simple. Emphasize that the task must be done in English.


Try these tasks to help your students become more acquainted with the school and its surroundings.


Ask students to:


  • learn the phone number of the school
  • learn the address of the school
  • learn the name of three people working in the school
  • learn 5 words that are on the posters in the school lobby
  • learn how to say the names of 4 objects located outside the classroom
  • identify 6 types of businesses located around the school


If your students have Internet access, you can challenge them to find the answer to one of these questions:


What do the words FACETIOUS and SUBCONTINENTAL have in common?

(Answer: FACETIOUS features the five vowels in alphabetical order, and SUBCONTINENTAL contains the five vowels in reverse order.)


What are the 3 most commonly used words in the English language?


(Answer: the, be and to, according to the Oxford English Corpus)


How do you say 撒嬌 sa jiao in English?


(Answer: there is no single word in English for 撒嬌, but “cajole” or “act like a spoiled child” are good approximations.)


What is the longest English word that can be typed with the left hand?


(Answer: stewardesses.)


Which English word begins and ends with the three letters UND?


(Answer: underground)


You also might wish to get students to interact in English. Give them one of these tasks.


  • Have a short conversation with 3 strangers in the school.
  • Ask 3 people for help with a problem you are having.
  • Give 3 people a compliment during the break.
  • Invite someone to go out with you this weekend.
  • Tell someone a joke or riddle.
  • Ask 4 people to recommend a good movie.


You can also link the task to a topic in your course book, either a topic you are covering now, or one that will come up in future lessons. Try these tasks.


  • Find 6 words related to the topic.
  • Create an interesting discussion question related to the topic.
  • Ask 3 people their opinion of the topic.
  • Learn 4 facts related to the topic.
  • Draw a picture on the board that has some connection to the topic.
  • Think of a movie, song, or book that is related to the topic.


When the break is over, you can call students to give you a brief report on their break work.


While some students might want to get away from studying English during break time, there’s no reason you can’t get them to do a little fun fluency work and encourage them to practice English independently.



Hall Houston teaches at Kainan University in Taoyuan County, Taiwan. His articles have been published in periodicals such as It's for Teachers, Modern English Teacher and English Teaching Professional. He has written 3 books: The Creative Classroom: Teaching Languages Outside the Box, Provoking Thought: Memory and Thinking in ELT, and The ELT Daily Journal: Learning to Teach ESL/EFL

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