Getting them settled...

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:

And with a longer text and a higher level, you could try a more difficult version:

A gap-fill is a nice easy activity. Students could write the words next to the gap numbers in their books. Again, you could allow students to work in pairs. They don't even have to write answers down - just read through the text and work out where the words go mentally.

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.

The activity below is similar. Simply by clicking on the 50:50 button when you display the screen, half of all the letters are filled in for you, leaving something like the screen below.

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.)

The following could just be used to get students attention, and to get them thinking about what is missing from the text. They could discuss this in pairs, for example. (The falling blocks fill up the box - when it's full the game ends. This takes about 4 or 5 minutes, so there's plenty of time available, but only about 20-30 seconds for each answer).

This activity below is similar. Students have to see if they can work out what's missing, as above, and also if they can find the text in snake form in the grid. You have 4 minutes for each question (requires you to click on Next after 4 minutes to show another one.)


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...

...or match up the beginnings and ends of each line of dialogue...

...or put the words of each line into the right order:

They could work out the text of the dialogue with letters missing (this has been created by clicking on the 50:50 button to fill in half of the letters)...

...or with the words of each line all run together so that they have to work out what the separate words are...

...or work out what the missing words are based on the context (and the initial letter of each word). Every third word gapped...

...or two out of every three words gapped...

...or every word gapped:

Matching exercises (Text Match, Picture Match, Grid Match)

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...

...or you can click on the minus button to reduce the number of items if you prefer:

You can use the matching activity in the same way in Picture Match...

...or with verb conjugations in Grid Match:

You could ask students (again, either individually or in pairs or groups; in writing, or in rough, or mentally - I'm aware that I'm repeating myself...) to work out the missing matching information based on the prompt and the word shape, in Text Match...

...or in Grid Match:

Or how about an activity which will get their attention, in which they have to work out the answer as the blocks fall (takes a few minutes before the box fills up):

If you use the true or false activity (put the timer on a high setting, so that the information changes every 5 seconds or so) you can encourage them to join in and respond (yes / snap / oui / sí / ja) whenever they recognize a correct match. Here it is in Picture Match:

And in Text Match:

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

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.




4 responses
My concern is with the notion of having to "settle" students and getting them quiet before learning can begin. I wonder how adults would feel if we treated them this way. I think several of your activities are actually well-designed and do more than "settle".

The TELL Project states that: "I ensure that my students are engaged in an activity tied to the day’s lesson and designed to capture their attention as soon as they enter the room."

If teachers take that approach to an opening activity/sponge/bell-ringer/setters, they might choose them differently and actually engage students in meaningful tasks from the beginning.

It's probably just in the language/title, but sometimes what we call things has an impact on how and why we do things. Changing our own language when we talk about learning (in my opinion) is going to be key in wanting to change practices and behaviors of teachers.

Wow, a comment! Thank you...

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.)

This post is kind of a response to a request on Twitter for ideas for the kinds of activities that teachers can use to provide a focus for when the students enter the room - activities that are not the main focus of the lesson (ie. because the teacher may be intending to present something new, or the teacher needs everybody to be there before they can start on an activity, for example), but which provide something for early/on-time arrivers to do whilst the rest of the class arrives.

These activities may be used to recap / revise previously taught material, or they may be used as an intro to the main focus of the lesson.

The activities listed above represent a tiny fraction of the activities that can be made using TaskMagic - I've just chosen those activities that fit the remit as outlined above (and at the beginning of the post). I agree that some / many of them can be used for much more substantial lesson content, but that was not the point of this post.

I don't think that by using a term such as "settler activities" or "getting them settled" we are suggesting that these are not meaningful activities - not at all. After all, these are terms that are being used by and among educators. I certainly wouldn't refer to these activities as "settler activities" in front of the class, because to do so would suggest that these activities are not really worth paying attention to, as they are not part of the lesson proper.

Thanks again for your comment. It makes a pleasant change :0)

Hi - a taskmagic novice - and an NQT! I have made a picture match game for daily routine in spanish and playing it to check it I found an error - is there any way I can edit the create file - where do they automatically get stored - to fix the error rather than half to start over?


Yes, you simply open TaskMagic Create, click on Picture Match, open the Picture Match file that you've created, edit it and make the necessary changes, then save it again.