TEFL: Activities Using Little to No Resources

One of the more challenging aspects of teaching in Kosovo is working with few resources. We have chalkboards/chalk and (some) textbooks (half of my classes don’t have books yet … and school started a month ago). That’s pretty much it. The Peace Corps wants us to develop sustainable new ideas for the classroom. Even if I could afford to buy extra materials, that really isn’t fair to the other teachers, who might not be able to do so.

I’ve mentioned previously that this is my first experience teaching in a classroom. I’ve been scouring the Internet for ideas for classroom activities. Printouts are a challenge. My school has one printer, and it isn’t even an industrial-sized one you see in offices across the U.S. It’s closer to the size you might have in your home office. So, printing out materials for dozens of students every day isn’t really an option.

I’ve rounded up some of the best activities I’ve found so far that require few to no resources. I’ll likely continue to add posts like these to the blog as I discover/come up with more ideas. There are a million “icebreaker” games out there, but I’ve focused on educational activities where students have to speak or write in English.

Teaching Present Continuous
1. One student comes up to the front of the classroom and acts out a daily activity.
2. The other students have to call out what he/she is doing. “He is brushing his teeth.” “He is washing the dishes.”

Hangman (for use with any vocab words)
1. Allow students to take turns acting as the “hangman,” choosing words and calling on their classmates to guess.

Teaching Parts of the Body
1. Sing “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.”
2. Draw a body on the chalkboard and have students come up to label parts

A Tree Map (used to teach are/can/have)
Draw something that looks like this on the board:
|             |           |
Are       Can     Have

And ask students to help you fill in the tree. Example: Spiders
“Spiders are hairy.” “Spiders can jump.” “Spiders have eight legs.”

1. Describe a room and have students draw what they hear
“There is a coffee table in the middle of the room. On the table is … Under the table is …Beside the table is … ”

Stand Up If …
1. Have students make a circle with their chairs. Remove one of the chairs.
2. Have a student volunteer stand in the middle of the circle.
3. The student volunteer has to come up with a sentence, such as, “Stand up if you’re wearing a white shirt.”
4. All the students wearing a white shirt must stand and try to find a different chair, while the person in the middle also tries to find a chair.
5. The last person standing has to come up with the next sentence.

**I compiled these into a downloadable PDF: tefl-esl-activities-using-little-or-no-resources.

If anyone out there has other ideas, please feel free to share!

Questions About Schools in Kosovo

My friend Dana loves it when she makes “guest appearances” on this blog. (Hi, Dana!) She recently emailed me a bunch of questions about school. I thought about making a video to answer them, but I am lazy so, no.

What ages are they again?
I teach 7th and 8th grade, so they are eleven to … fourteen?

Is it just you and the kiddos all day? Is there anyone else in the classroom with you?
No, I am not supposed to ever be alone in the classroom. I am partnered with a Kosovar co-teacher. The goal of Peace Corps is to help teachers here develop new methods of teaching, and to develop sustainable teaching materials.

How long do you have each class?
40 minutes

How many classes a day do you teach?
It varies … 3-5 classes per day. Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to teach 20 classes per week.

What time does school start and end?
Most schools in Kosovo operate on two shifts, morning and afternoon. I work mornings, so 8:00-1:00. I think the afternoon shift starts at 1:00 and goes to 4 or 5:00.

What’s all the rage on the playground?
Because the school day is short, I haven’t observed an official recess time.

Are they soccer kids?
Totally. Volleyball is also a popular sport here.

What’s the big activity for them?
I don’t know.

What gets them excited?
They seem to be into all of the things American kids are into. One of my students has a cool Spiderman/Batman pencil case. Another student has an adorable Hello Kitty backpack I want to steal. (Of course, I am kidding. I would never steal from a child. Maybe.)

What are the other classes most of your students are taking?
The basics … Shqip (Albanian), English, math, geometry, physics, geography, history, physical education …

Are they led down a vocational route, or a route to higher education?
Both. My understanding is that kids take a test at some point. Depending on how they score, some are sent to vocational school, while others apply to college.

What is the school structure? Is there a principal? Who do you report to?
I report to the school director, who I believe reports directly to the Ministry of Education. (Side note, I love that name. It reminds me of the Ministry of Magic in Harry Potter.)

How many grades are there?
All of them. 🙂

Do the older kids have after school jobs?
I don’t think so. Employment here is scarce for adults. I don’t think most children work.

Are there any sort of extra curricular activities?
If you’re talking like a drama club or something, not that I’ve seen. Some volunteers run programs like English Clubs, etc. There’s also a new poetry competition that’s starting up, and a push to start chess clubs in schools.


Thanks for your questions, Dana!