Do you have an extra five minutes before the bell rings? You want to use it properly but don’t have any idea? ELT expert Penny Ur offers us a resource book of short activities, «Five-Minute Activities», that may come in handy not only when you don’t know what to do during the last five minute of your class, but also for specific purposes, such as vocabulary revision, adjective-noun word order, reading and writing practice, etc. In this article, we will share some of the activities from that resource book that you can use for your group classes.

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Associations (vocabulary revision through imaginative association)

This activity works well in group classes, however, it can be used for individual lessons as well. Start by suggesting a word, for example ‘jungle’. A student says what he/she associates this word with, for example ‘danger’. Then the next student says a word he/she associates with ‘danger’. You continue the activity until all other students name one word. You can use an item of vocabulary your students have recently learnt.

Categories (listening comprehension, vocabulary revision)

Ask your students to draw two (for higher levels three or four) columns and give them a category heading for each. For example, fruit and vegetables. Then dictate a series of words that may fit into one of the categories. Students write down each word in its appropriate column. Here is an example:

Penny Ur

Another variation of this activity can be carried out by separating the class into two (three or four) groups and asking each of them to write down the words belonging only to one category. For example, Group 1 writes only the words that belong to the category Fruit, Group 2 — Vegetables, etc.

You can use the same activity for revising the topic of parts of speech. Then you will have the categories noun, verb, adjective, adverb, etc.

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Compare yourselves (use of comparatives)

If you have just learnt the topic of comparatives, this activity will help your students to practise them in speech. Students work in pairs and find different ways of comparing themselves to each other. Then they make up appropriate sentences, such as:

Your hair is darker than mine.

You are shorter than I am.

Expanding texts (forming grammatical sentences)

Write down one verb and get your students to add one, two or three words to it. For example, you write ‘have’, and your students suggest ‘I have’, the next student adds ‘I have breakfast’, the other one may add ‘I have breakfast at 11 a.m.’, etc. The only rule of the activity is to add words either at the beginning or at the end of what is already written.

Writing storms (writing)

Give students topics for writing short stories. Here is a list of themes that you may use in your classes:

The best thing to happen to me today

Something I love doing

What is in my head at this moment?

What is friendship

A memory from childhood

My favourite TV program

Ask your students to choose one of the topics and write a short paragraph on it in 5 minutes. Tell them that you are not going to concentrate on their mistakes but rather on the ideas they describe. When they finish it, give them feedback, discuss their main mistakes only during the next lesson.

Guessing (yes/no questions and answers)

Choose an object, animal, vegetable, or fruit and tell your students which of these categories it belongs to. Then they have to guess what it is by asking questions, such as “Is it small?”, “Is it red”, etc. For higher levels, you can also use verbs, e.g. ‘to drink’, ‘to eat’. Then your students have to ask questions like “Have you done it today?”, “Do you always do it?”, etc. If they have some difficulty in finding the answer, you can give some hints.

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Hearing mistakes (listening comprehension with quick reactions)

Read a story that is well known to your students. The story may be unknown as well, but it must include the vocabulary and grammatical structures students have already learnt. While reading the story you must use deliberate mistakes in it. Get your students to react to the mistakes and correct them.

This was the list of five-minute activities that I personally use in my group classes. However, you may find lots of other interesting activities in the book. Hopefully, you will find them useful and very practical as well.

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