Are Your ELLs Wasting Time Waiting Around in Class?

wasting time, waiting

Teachers have a lot to do in any given class. 

There are lots of administrative things that need to get done.

There are many different students with many different needs.

Unexpected things come up. 

Life happens.

It is not unusual for students to have to wait around a bit during class.

The waiting around though can become a major problem.

Many classroom management issues occur while students are waiting around.

Bored students are creative students.

They will come up with something to do if you haven’t given them anything. Some will come up with something even when you have. 

Students start poking each other.

They steal pencils.

They crawl on the floor.

They pick their noses.

They put their heads down and go to sleep.

They chat.

They doodle in their textbooks.

Even the most mundane things are interesting when you are waiting around and bored.

Many of these behavioral issues disappear when students are occupied.

Just keeping your students busy can be enormously helpful for classroom management. Decreasing down time between activities, getting more students involved during activities, and giving them things to do while they are waiting all reduce behavioral problems.

When you are planning your classes, consider how you can keep all your students busy all of the time.

Here is a list of 8 common situations where your students may end up waiting around too much.

The goal is to reduce the amount of time students are waiting or change the activity so that they aren’t waiting at all.

  • ​When switching between activities
  • ​When asking questions to the class and individual students are answering
  • ​When the teacher is talking and there is no student involvement
  • ​When students are taking turns reading sentences from a textbook or story
  • ​When the teacher is helping a struggling student
  • ​When students work in groups dominated by one or two individuals
  • ​When some students finish an assignment more quickly than others
  • ​When the teacher is unsure of what he or she wants to do next

Got some ideas about how to reduce the amount of time students are waiting around?

Share in the comments below!

2 thoughts on “Are Your ELLs Wasting Time Waiting Around in Class?”

  1. Francesca Palazzo

    Which kind of activities would I successfully propone to students aged 11 years old, in the start, while I’m solving bureaucratic stuffs?

    1. Hi Francesca, there are a lot of variables to consider. How much time do you need to take care of the “bureaucratic” things you mentioned? How well-behaved are you students? Do they work well on their own or are they getting wild while you are trying to take care of things?

      Some preliminary thoughts:
      1.Speeding up administrative tasks or doing them before class as much as possible always helps a lot. The longer your students have to wait around, the more behavioral problems you’ll likely have to deal with.
      2. If you don’t need long, my favorite activity for students is reading. If you don’t have a library at your school, have students bring in a book from home or provide some books for them that you have purchased. You could also give them a writing assignment they can complete on their own without help from you or much explanation (think: copy a text from a textbook).
      3. If you need more time than that, you can add a reward for accomplishing #2 above quietly (think: Uno or some other fun game). As long as the students play quietly, nicely and use English, they get to play, but if they don’t follow those rules, they go back and repeat #2 above.

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