Repeating the same activities with the same class over and over again sucks. Stealing lesson ideas is the answer. Just because you don’t have the time and energy to think of any new ideas doesn’t mean you have to condemn your learners (and you!) to the same mind-numbing activities every class.
When even looking on the internet becomes too much like a chore, here are the best ways to liberate some lesson ideas from colleagues.
1. Start a Discussion
In the staffroom, in the corridor, having a cigarette out the back, on the way into work or over dinner – just ask a colleague what their current favourite activity is. How can you adapt it to your classes?
2. Brainstorm Lesson Ideas in a Workshop
Persuade your academic manager to have an 'activity sharing' workshop, where everyone has to contribute their current favourite adaptable activity. Your manager will like it as it has zero preparation time for them, and it also falls under the guide of 'professional development'.
The best way to run it is if teachers demo a five minute activity, showing how they set up and run the activity using the other teachers as (un)willing participants.
Make sure someone takes notes and emails them around later - bonus points if you can get someone else to do it rather than you :-).
3. If you use a shared computer drive, look in their files (or an old teachers’ files who’s left)
A sneaky one, but effective nonetheless. If you have a shared drive at your school where teachers are encouraged to keep their old lesson plans and materials, you can trawl this for ideas.
4. Impromptu Peer Observation
Ask one of your more relaxed colleagues if they mind if you pop into their class for half an hour when you’re not teaching. Don't ask a new teacher though, they'll probably have a panic attack and jump out a window.
Nothing formal about this one, forget about recording notes and giving formal feedback, just go in and watch. Look for any activity that you haven’t used before, or one that is used in a different way or in a different context. Jot down any unusual twists that you haven’t seen before (keep an eye out for anything else useful too, like behaviour management techniques you haven’t seen before).
Oh, and don’t fall asleep, it’s rude. Afterwards, big thank you and an offer to share your thoughts goes a long way to being welcomed next time as well.
Bonus Idea: Use the 'Barefoot ESL Activities Grid'
Check out this post for more ways to generate awesome activities. OK, so it's not stealing from your real colleagues, but it's 'stealing' from me, your friendly internet colleague :-).
In short, don’t be boring. Don't get stuck in a rut doing the same activities. There’s a million and one lesson ideas out there, you’re only limited by your creativity (and how many ideas you can steal).
Some great ideas can come to you in the middle of class. These are the best ideas of all, as they’re tailored directly for the learners in that class. Deviate, follow them, and develop this instinct.
When you do run out of creativity though, remember you can always steal ask your colleagues for advice.