No-Prep Activities for When Your Plans Go Out The Window

Sometimes, your plans are perfect. It seems like your day is perfect and all set to go.

But then…it doesn’t…

It could be impromptu schedule changes; in-school events that takes half the kids out of your class; or (like in my case) you’ve made a mistake on the calendar and you have nothing planned for your students. In the world of education, there is always the possibility that something will happen that will prevent you from completing your awesome lesson.

So, what should we do when something like this happens?

I like to have a whole toolbox of activities at the ready for times like this. Today, I was sure that presentations were starting, so I didn’t plan anything for my 7th Graders to do. We were going to hear what they had to say about their research. Unfortunately, I misread the due date and saw that the presentations actually start tomorrow. I had nothing planned for the students to do…

But that doesn’t mean that I had nothing for them to do. There are lots of fun activities that we can do if our plans won’t work. Here is a list of activities that require no more than some paper and something to write with (and maybe an ipad or tablet, if your kids have them):

  1. Impromptu Scavenger Hunts
    1. If you have access to iPads, Tablets, or even Students’ personal iPhones, you can do a scavenger hunt and have students take pictures of things you’re talking about in your vocabulary. For example, when we were talking about describing ourselves and each other, students can find things around the school or the classroom that fit the adjective vocabulary (something tall, something short, etc).
  2. Games
    1. Simon Says, Telephone, Olé (a spelling game I’ve talked about on the blog before), Write-Draw-Pass, etc: Games are always a great go-to for me–students can engage each other in the language and have fun and feel like they’re not learning anything!
  3. Create Characters
    1. Another great activity for students who are at Novice High or higher – they get into groups and describe and draw an original character. I usually set parameters for what they need to include that are based on what we’re talking about, things like “name, age, where they live, 5 adjectives, 2 likes, 2 dislikes.” The kids create the characters and they draw them, then they get to present them at the end of the activity. They really get into this activity because I let them work in groups of (usually) 2-4, so they get to socialize and also create something that they can use to crack up their friends. Middle schoolers are always trying to find ways to make their friends laugh, so why not lean into that and give them an opportunity to do that in a language-rich way
  4. Story Circle
    1. See my recent post on this here
  5. Madlib Story
  6. Free-Write Assignment
    1. Students write and/or illustrate their own original stories or comics with a whole class period as the time limit. What can they come up with in the 1 class period? For these writing assignments, the kids can use dictionaries and ask questions. The purpose of this activity is to allow them to be as creative as possible within the constraints of the language they are currently able to use.
  7. Pair Stories
    1. Inspired by Write-Draw-Pass (mentioned above), this game is definitely for more advanced students. They sit in pairs and each student writes the first 2 or 3 sentences of a story. Then, they pass their papers and continue the story. This continues for a while. There can be prompts for when students get stuck (where does the character go? Who do they meet there? What do they want, Etc). The important part is that the kids don’t talk and just enjoy what their partner adds to the story.
  8. Movie Posters
    1. Have students look at previous stories they have written or heard in class (these can be free-writes, summaries of Story-Asking stories, or Madlib/Story Circle Stories) and have the students illustrate/create a movie poster for the story. They can draw the characters, give it a title, and incorporate targeted words and phrases from the story. Additionally, they can write the short reviews that are on movie posters (“5 estrellas” or “la mejor película del año”).


I hope that these activities provide you with some tools in your toolkit for when the things you wanted to do won’t work out. If you have any other no-prep activities, please share in the comments!






One comment

  1. Thank you for sharing all of these great ideas! I use a textbook, so sometimes I just look up already-created Kahoots/Quizlets! My students also enjoy activities where I tell them what to draw in Spanish–especially when the things are outlandish!


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