What activities can you use to settle the class as soon as they come in?
How can you give them all something to focus on, so that when everybody is there, and you're ready to begin, you can get on with the lesson?
NB. The context for this blog post is a situation where students turn up to the class in drips and drabs, maybe because they've just had PE, or they're coming from different parts of the school, or they've just had lunch, or whatever. (I don't want to get into a discussion about whether or not we should make students line up outside the class until they are all present and silent, as that is not what this post is about.)
The suggestions below are based on using a projector or interactive whiteboard (IWB), and they are examples of things that you can just put up on the screen and leave there, requiring no interaction with the board or your computer until you are ready to move on.
You could use these sorts of activities to quickly revise material that you've previously covered before embarking on something new, or as a discovery activity with new material, or simply to provide a focus while the class settles.
If used in the ways suggested below, no print-outs or photocopies are required for any of these activities.
NB. Although I've called these 'settler' activites, they won't necessarily have the effect of getting all the students sitting quietly. Although that is possible. It depends on how you approach them.
Mix & Gap
These activities are based on a single text. There are up to 23 activities in Mix & Gap, and the following can be used with a fairly short text, with no interaction required.
Students come in and try to figure out the correct sequence of text in a tile activity. They could write out the text, or simply write the numbers in the correct order. They could work in pairs if you prefer. You could go through the answer after a couple of minutes.
Here's a simpler version:
Here's another gap-fill activity which requires a bit more thought, as no word list is provided.
The exercise below requires the students to separate the words. The exercise could be done mentally - students could work alone or in pairs to work out what the text says. There might be a fair amount of noise as they discuss the text, but it should all be focused on the language.
The exercise below could also be done mentally - students could work alone or in pairs to work out what the text says. Again, here might be a fair amount of noise as they discuss the text.
You could ask students to find specific words or phrases in the text. As with many of these activities, this could be done mentally / orally, so that it doesn't take too much time, although you could go on to written work based on this later. (As a zero-interaction-with-the-computer settler activity, there can only be 5 words or phrases for students to find, as further words and phrases require the screen to be scrolled.)
These activities are based on a short dialogue. The following can be used with no interaction required.
As a written-in-rough or mental activity, either working individually in pairs, students put the lines of the dialogue in the correct order...
Although each of the matching exercises groups - Text Match, Picture Match, Grid Match - provides access to over 20 interactive exercises, only a few are really suitable for zero-interaction situations such as we're discussing here, where we want the students to be able to carry out an activity without the need for any clicks, drags or typing at the computer or IWB.
You could put up a list of matching vocab, for students to either work out mentally, or write down answers to. You can have up to 16 matching items on the screen...
Remember, all of the activities above are based on the idea of putting something on the screen that will engage the students, something that they can get on with by themselves or in pairs or small groups at the beginning of the class.
The activities above are just a small proportion of all of those available in TaskMagic - they're just the ones that I thought would be suitable for settler activities as they require zero interaction with the IWB or computer from the teacher or students.
TaskMagic can of course be used for much more than settler activities. You can use it for starters and plenaries, or for more substantial lesson content with a projector or IWB. Or you can use the interactive exercises for extensive language practice in an IT suite. (Or you can make use of the many TaskMagic worksheets for written work in class or for homework).
If you haven't got TaskMagic3, you can download a 30-day trial from the TaskMagic website (doesn't require registration or anything - just download and install it).
If you've previously trialled TM3 and would like to trial it again, that's now possible by arrangement. Also, if you'd like to arrange a longer trial period, that's now possible too. See the information at the bottom of the page at http://www.mdlsoft.co.uk/trialdownloads.htm
See these extensive video tutorials on how to exploit your own text (song, poem, story, news article etc) using the Mix and Gap component of TaskMagic, and these video turorials on creating your own resources with Text Match.