It was a Thursday lunchtime, I had just rushed into my staffroom to inhale my lunch, and the next class was about to start in 10 minutes. Only problem? I had NOTHING planned.
Cue the feeling in the pit of my stomach, slowly sinking as the minutes ticked down to class time. I HATE that feeling, and I’m sure you do too.
I needed to come up with a plan for a seventy-minute lesson in about five minutes, including time spent wrestling with the recalcitrant photocopier.
My brain ticked on overdrive as I eyeballed the clock – seventy minutes equals three blocks of twenty minutes, with five minutes either side of setting up and packing up. I needed three activities.
If only I had a list of useful resources to get free, instant activities. Oh wait, I do. And I’m going to share them. Read on for four free resources to use in class when you have nothing planned.
Set up a few years ago by Hank and John Green (otherwise known as the Vlog Brothers), CrashCourse had a massive array of free videos on just about any topic.
Their series covers World History, US History, Literature, Psychology, Engineering, History of Science, Media Literacy, Theatre and Drama, Biology, Ecology, Statistics, Sociology, Computer Science, Chemistry, Big History, Anatomy and Physiology, US Government and Politics, Intellectual Property, Economics, Philosophy, Physics, Games, World Mythology, Astronomy, Study Skills, and Film History, Production and Criticism.
Most of the videos run between 10-15 minutes and do a great job of introducing a topic.
The videos are often humorous (especially for teachers – and let’s face it you could use a laugh).
They’re quick, engaging, and easy to use. Just google and press play.
If you haven’t been here, this is a website with an absolute bonanza of free graphic organisers, planning templates, writing prompt worksheets, blank calendars, a worksheet creator, journal topics, poetry worksheets, fun and games, colouring pages, classroom signs, alphabet worksheets, and awards and certificates.
You can print-and-go with most of the worksheets, but you can also personalise them to the topic at hand if you have an extra five minutes to hand write or type in extra information.
Khan Academy is an excellent resource with free lessons, videos, and quizzes.
The range of content is huge, including grammar, test-prep, history, US government and civics, and life skills (such as applying for college, investigating careers, and personal finance).
If you create an account (for yourself and your students) you can differentiate learning, track student progress, find standards-aligned content, and assign work.
Ok, this one is cheating, as it requires planning ahead. BUT, you can use the free Puzzlemaker section to quickly (I’m talking 5-10 minutes) to make puzzle activity worksheets.
You can use it to make worksheets such as find-a-words, crosswords, cryptic clues, word puzzles, number puzzles, fallen phrases, maths squares, letter tiles, and cryptograms.
I often used the crossword maker to make vocabulary puzzles – much more fun than finding definitions in a dictionary.
So what did I do?
Back to my Thursday class, you may be wondering what I did. I used the first of the free resources for class when for when you’ve got nothing planned! I loaded up a Course video (and I refused to feel guilty about it-read why here).
Easy, quick, got the kids in the door, and gave me time to get organised for the rest of the lesson.
While watching the video, I asked students to take visual notes in their books. I warned them that they’d need the notes for later in the class.
As follow-up, the students had to write a one-sentence summary of the video using their notes.
The second activity was an extended writing activity using the one-sentence summaries as a topic sentence for a paragraph about the video. I projected a four-square paragraph writing worksheet on the board, then we wrote a quick paragraph as a class.
After demonstrating, students had to use their own one-sentence summary as a topic sentence and complete an entire paragraph. They handed these in once complete and grabbed the final activity.
The last activity was simple – use the Puzzlemaker to create a quick vocabulary revision activity. Create, click and print while the students watched CrashCourse and did independent paragraphs.
Phew! The lesson was a success (and with no planning!).
So next time you’re short on time, remember these 4 free resources for class when you have nothing planned.
You may be interested in these blog posts:
- 3 free study skills videos to watch with your middle and high school students
- 4 simple solutions for note-taking while distance learning
- 3 free mind-mapping tools for middle and high school students
- Using CrashCourse to introduce a topic
- 3 free literature videos to watch with your middle and high school students