Be Kind, Unwind

banish the ywanIt’s 5.30pm on a Friday afternoon, and you sense that your adult learners are beginning to give in to their urge to hibernate. 

Topping off a working week with a 2 hour English lesson can be tough. An hour earlier, you introduced them to the present perfect tense and they were less than thrilled to make its acquaintance. You practised the grammar then practised some more.

You don’t really want to bombard them by moving on to the next stage in the present perfect journey, but you have 30 minutes of lesson time left. So, what can you do?

Here are some unwinding activities for those sleepy moments at the end of a class.


Listen to a Podcast

Listening to a podcast gives the students a break from talking, and because they have to tune in to a new speaker, they become more concentrated. Quiz them generally on their comprehension of the podcast, bearing in mind that the purpose is not to grill them. Lead on by discussing their thoughts on the subject matter.

Try BBC 6 Minute English for topical talks at intermediate level.

Discuss a photograph

Each week The Guardian posts a selection of thought-provoking images on its website. Have the students describe the photos and give their opinions on the news stories they represent.

Play taboo

Wake students up with a fun game of taboo. Just ensure that the vocabulary is pitched at the right level. For lower levels, allow them to use some of the forbidden words in their explanations. Click for free printable taboo cards.

Watch a movie trailer

Watch an English trailer for an upcoming movie. Ask about their impressions of the movie and their predictions for the plot.

Give a vocabulary quiz

Give each group member a piece of paper with 3 or 4 of the new words from the lesson.

They must explain the word until the others guess it correctly. As an alternative, have them draw a picture that represents the word. You can also have fun with vocabulary by using games like hangman or anagrams.

Listen to a song

Many learners of English are familiar with Anglophone music, but ask them the words to their favourite Stones song and they’re likely to struggle, or give you a hilarious misheard lyric (in France, Queen’s I want to break free sometimes becomes I want to take frites). Lyricstraining is a fantastic interactive tool that helps you to improve your comprehension skills with music. The aim is to complete the song lyrics while watching a music video. You can select a difficulty level and pause the clip whenever you like so this activity would be suitable for most levels. For more ideas on how to use lyricstraining in the classroom, visit Tatiana Gomez’s post.


What are your preferred wind-down activities? Leave a comment to share your tips and ideas.