More Sponge Activities to Teach English

Sponge Activities that Teach English

Teaching English requires a panoply of skills. One of them is preparation. ESL teachers need a good supply of ready to go materials when the inevitable surprise comes up. Like when a lesson finishes early and you want to fill a gap with a useful activity.

Consider adding these 5 activities to your collection of back pocket activities, fun language-focused exercises, video lessons and pair work discussion builders that require little prep.

Most of the activities are geared towards a conversation class (high beginner+), but  can easily be adapted for writing classes with some imagination.

Easy Pair Work

Here are two low-prep pair work or whole class activities. Display the pages on a classroom screen or photocopy.

Memory Test

Put students in groups of 3-4. Display pictures on the first page (i.e. classroom screen or handouts). Give students 2 minutes to memorize the pictures.

One student is the reader. He or she reads questions about the pictures. The other students collectively try to construct accurate answers, mostly using prepositions of location. This exercise comes from a terrific resource collection called Timesaver Games.

Sound and Sort

A wonderful 10-minute exercise that helps students improve their awareness of word sounds.

Display the list of 30 words. Ask students to sort the words into three groups based on one common element. At first, let students think about your vague instructions. Then give hints, like what kinds of words are these (verbs). If still stumped, remind students about regular verbs (i.e. ed endings) and the three different sounds that ED can have (/d/ and /t/ and /id/)

Great with high beginner+ students, even my advanced students find something to learn in this activity.

Video Lessons

These video clips are great for the ESL classroom.

They aren’t too long. so the students will not be spending too much time with their eyes glued to the screen (they get enough of that already). Plus, a good deal of language-focused learning emerges through the student interaction (e.g. pair work or small groups).

Phrasal Verbs and Collocations

After watching this montage of short clips, put students in pairs or groups and ask them them to make a list of the collocations and phrasal verbs.

You will probably want to show the video (just 2 minutes) two or three times. You can also watch the video on Vimeo.

Pair Work Story Telling

This fun exercise blends accuracy and fluency speaking skills. Put students in pairs, A and B. Send B outside the class for a couple of minutes. A watches a video. B students come back in. A students retell the story with as much detail a possible. B asks follow up questions. That’s about 10 minutes.

Watch the video again. B students assess their partner’s accuracy and story telling skills.

Repeat process with A students leaving the room; B students watch a different video. Here are two great video clips for this speaking exercise.


Here is another vocabulary rich short video which helps students improve their vocabulary. It also helps students improve their ability to hear, write and say large numbers. The video clip is short (2 minutes) and you will probably want to play it several times.

A good rainy day lesson when you want to change the pace of your class, do something a different or fill a surprise class. Discussion questions included.

Teach writing?

Get the ebook Teach Essential Writing Skills. Transform the quality of EFL student writing by focusing on four essential skills. Click here for details about the ebook that should be part of every writing teacher’s resource library.


Save time. Teach well.

Cut your lesson prep time with this colossal collection of ESL resources that stimulate language learning and critical thinking. Simplify your lesson planning because teaching should be a joy, not a chore.toolbox-front-cover-3d-book-8-8





Image Credits

Featured image by Public Record Office Victoria. Its use complies with the owner’s creative commons licensing terms.


Leave a Comment

IMPORTANT! To be able to proceed, you need to solve the following simple math (so we know that you are a human) :-)

What is 13 + 9 ?
Please leave these two fields as-is:

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.