7 filler activities for teenage learners

Even a perfect lesson plan can fail to work. At times, our classes take longer than it’s been intended, especially now when a lot of teaching and learning is done online. But what to do if there are still 7-10 minutes left till the end of the lesson and all the activities are done? In this case, we can use a filler — a short, go-to activity which requires little to no preparation and can be used for any topic. Your teenage students will benefit from a bit of extra speaking or revision or will just have fun. In this article, you’ll find 7 fillers most of which you can use with teens both online and offline.

  1. 20 questions

This good old speaking activity can be done to revise vocabulary, practise question forms, or just talk a bit. Ask one student to think of a thing or a person and invite the rest of the group to ask up to 20 yes/no questions to guess it. You can link this activity to the topic of the lesson and only guess food, famous people, well-known films and books or whatever you are focused on. No preparation needed, suitable for online classes, easy to run — what else to ask for?

2. Hot seats

Another activity, familiar to most of us, which is my personal favourite. Do you remember the game where one person sits their back to the board, the teacher writes some word or phrase on this board, and the rest of the group are trying to explain it to their groupmate? This is it! There are always words to be revised, aren’t they? By the way, this activity can be successfully done online if you work in Zoom, for example. Instead of writing something on the board which is visible to everyone, just send the target word privately to each member of the group except the person who is going to guess it. 

3. What’s on your desk

This online activity will help you learn more about your students and build better rapport. At the end of the lesson, ask each student to find some object on their desk which means something to them and/or has a story behind it. Students can show it into the camera or — if the cameras are off which often happens with teenagers — share the screen with the photo of this object. After that, invite them to ask one question each. It can be something like this:

What do you use it for?

Why have you chosen this colour?

Where did you get it?

4. Would you rather?

For this simple activity, you will need a set of pre-prepared cards. They can be both printed out or organized using some of the online tools like Wordwall, for example. Write as many ‘Would you rather…’ questions as you can, taking into consideration your students’ level and interests. Then, invite them to pick a card, answer questions and, ideally, justify their choice. The questions can vary from ‘Would you rather pick a banana or a kiwi?’ to ‘Would you rather never read again or never hear any kind of music?’.

5. Make it longer

I sometimes practise this activity with my teenage students to get rid of extremely short sentences in their writings. It works especially well for lower levels, but can also be done with higher ones. First, write a short sentence on the board. Then, invite students to extend it by adding one word only. Students continue one by one until they run out of ideas. Here is an example which we once had while learning how to write reviews in the context of travelling:

6. Odd-one-out

We are all familiar with this activity where a student has to find the odd word in a line of four. Why don’t you ask students to create something like this? Give them 1-2 minutes to make a task of just 4 words where one looks strange. Invite them to share their tasks with the rest of the group and ask others to prove their choice. You can limit the learners to the topic of the lesson or set no limits at all. 

7. Just a minute Tic-Tac-Toe

This is an activity based on a BBC 4 radio show in which the contestants are challenged to speak for one minute without hesitation, deviation or repetition on any subject that comes up on the cards. First, draw a grid on the board and fill it with some speaking topics which can be potentially interesting for your students. If you work online, you can share your screen with a pre-prepared grid or make it on spot in any text processor. Here is what we’ve had recently with students of mine:

7 filler activities for teenage learners

After that, divide students into two teams and assign them with either X or O. A member of the team has to choose any topic and talk about that for a certain amount of time. It can vary from 30 seconds to 2 minutes depending on the learners’ level. If they manage to do so, mark the topic with X or O. The first team who gets a straight line is the winner — just as in a regular game of tic-tac-toe. 

All of the fillers mentioned in this article are easy to use, can be adapted to virtually any topic and help your lesson end in a fun and stimulating way but still be productive. You can run these simple activities with teenagers of any level, or sometimes even kids and adults, and will always have something to pull out of your back pocket.

What’s your favourite filler activity which works well with teens?

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  • Maria BELKINA

    Make it longer — there is no example


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