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Young Learners

Teaching English to Elementary School Children

February 08, 2010

Ten ways to use an eggtimer in class

An egg-timer is a great tool for the classroom. It can spice up old activities, turn competitive games into co-operative ones, and help with classroom management. These are some ways a three-minute egg-timer can be used in class.

1. For small classes (four or fewer). Each student has three minutes in which to answer as many questions as possible from the teacher. Another student keeps track of the score, and another watches the egg-timer. It is a good way to practise new targets and review older targets, as well as to practise general personal questions such as What school do you go to? Where do you live? etc. It also really improves students’ listening skills. It can be turned into a co-operative activity by having all students answering questions during the first round, then repeating the activity and trying to beat the previous score.

2. For large classes. The whole class has three minutes in which to ask one question each to the teacher (or to one volunteer student). Questions such as Do you like...?, Do you have ...? Can you ...? What ... do you like? work well, as well as any other questions the students know and want to ask.

3. For any size class. Divide students into small groups (about four). Give each group a set of cards that consists of some kind of pairs, for example, pictures and initial letters, pictures and words, questions and answers. Students have three minutes in which to match up the pairs.

4. For any size class. Divide students into small groups (about four). Give each group a set of cards that consists of some kind of pairs (as above). Students play concentration (shinkeisuijaku) and try to finish within three (or six) minutes. This makes for a faster game avoiding the time-wasting that sometimes occurs as students deliberate over which card to choose. It also makes it a more co-operative game than the standard one as the goal is to finish in the time limit rather than to win the most cards.

5. For any size class. Write “yes” ten times and “no” ten times on the board. Students have to ask yes/no questions to the teacher (or volunteer student). When the teacher answers “yes” erase one “yes” and when the teacher answers “no” erase one “no”. The goal is for all the “yeses” and “no’s” to be erased within three minutes.

6. For any size class. Give verbal maths problems to the students e.g. ten plus twelve, forty minus twenty-five etc. Students raise their hands and answer. They see how many they can answer in three minutes. Play again later in the class and try to beat the previous score.

7. For any size class. Divide students into small groups. Each group has paper and pencil. Give them a category, e.g. clothes and they write as many types of clothing as they can in three minutes. Points can be awarded for the number and bonus points for correct spelling.

8. For small classes. Practise reading or writing for fluency by showing words or pictures, (or dictating words) and having students read or write the words. See how many they can do in three minutes or ask them in advance how many they think they can do, and try to reach that goal. If there is more than one student, then, for reading, students can take turns, and for writing, all the students can write and, once all have written the first word, show the second picture, and so on.

9. For any size class. For time-consuming preparation or clearing away, use the egg-timer to encourage everyone to hurry up and get the job done. This can save a lot of time in class. A one-minute egg-timer is also good for smaller jobs.

10. For sleepy students. I have a student who has some kind of “writing narcolepsy”. I see his eyes rolling back in his head, and his attempts to conceal his yawns as soon as he has a pencil in his hand. However, the egg-timer works wonders at removing his sleepiness. I ask him how many questions and answers, or words, he can write in three minutes, and then we start. He hates to not reach his goal, and enjoys the excitement of trying to beat the clock, and this keeps him awake. We then have another three minutes for corrections. Then start again. The egg-timer has made a huge difference to my class with this boy.



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