Okay, it’s a cliché to say a book changed your life, but this book changed mine. It cut my prep time down to minutes. Using the activities in this book, I learned how to teach for two hours using only half a page of notes.

The authors don’t tell language teachers not to plan. They tell them not to over-prepare: making up dictations and comprehension questions, previewing vocabulary in readings. Over-preparation can make teachers too controlling, too busy, and just too tired to function well in class.

Read this book and you won’t fall into that trap again. Instead, learn to turn your announcements into a listening activity. Get a class of reluctant beginners talking with Tell It Like It Isn’t. Use any set of directions to create an Acting-Out Dictacomp — an activity that combines TPR with writing and also promotes cooperation. Do the unimaginable and make sentence structure a source of entertainment with Sentence Contraction and Expansion. I’ve done all this, and so can you.

The book is divided into chapters on icebreakers, listening, speaking, reading, writing, vocabulary, and structure (grammar). Each chapter gives directions for six to 22 low-prep activities. Indexes group the activities by routines (brainstorm, chain, cloze, etc.) and uses (class cohesion, preview, review, settling down). Although most activities are for intermediate to advanced students, there are about 30 suitable for beginners, and many others can be adapted for them. (The authors have also published a book for beginning classes.)

So quit staying up late the night before class to make up worksheets and circle vocabulary words. As the back cover copy says, “When teachers teach less, students learn more!”

Zero Prep: Ready-to-Go Activities for the Language Classroom, by Laurel Pollard and Natalie Hess, Alta Book Center Publishers, 1997. ISBN: 1-882483-64-2

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