In a previous article, I suggested some ways to start a class. Here, I will cover a related topic, how to end lessons properly.
One common problem is getting to the final minutes of class and not having enough material to end things smoothly. It looks unprofessional to dismiss students early, but there may not be enough time to get into the next section of the coursebook. I recommend keeping a few extra activities ready for this type of situation.
Prepare 7 sentences using some of the grammar and vocabulary covered in the lesson, but include a common mistake in 3 of them. (You can also use your student’s sentences from writing and speaking activities.) In the last few minutes of class, do a dictation of the sentences and get students to work in groups to identify the errors and correct them. Finally, choose a few students to write the correct versions on the board.
Before class, write out 10 review questions on the sticky side of post-its (one question for each post-it) based on your teaching material. Write a big number (1 to 10) on the other side of the post-it. At the end of class, put these post-its on the board. Divide students into 3 groups. Each group sends a person to the board and takes one post-it. They discuss the answer and write it down on a sheet of paper (not on the post-it). Then they put the post-it back on the board and repeat the process with another question until they have answered all of them. The first group to finish all 10 questions gets a prize.
Ask students to look over the coursebook or teaching material for a couple of minutes. Put them in pairs and challenge them to come up with a really difficult question they will ask you about the material. Give them a few minutes to prepare, then let each pair ask their question.
Ask students to find 5 or 6 words/phrases they want to remember from the lesson. Put students into pairs. Ask each student to use their finger to write one of the words on their partner’s back in Chinese. The other student should try to say the word in English. (Note: if you think asking students to write on each other’s backs might cause problems, you can ask them to write the word in the air with their finger.)
Make a few predictions about where your students will be and what they will be doing during the next few days. Use some vocabulary that your students have encountered recently in these predictions. When you have finished, ask the students for their responses to your predictions.
Pass out some small slips of paper (I often use blank business cards). Tell students to write one new word they learned in the center of the card. Then tell them to write any 3 of the 7 following items related to the word: a definition, a synonym, an antonym, a collocation, a translation in Chinese, an example sentence, OR a drawing that illustrates the word. Inform them that when they have finished putting down 3 of these, they can hand you the slip of paper and go home.
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.