20 Teaching Ideas to Decrease Student Lateness

When I was teaching in a community English program several years ago as part of my teaching practicum in the MATESOL program, I—as well as some of my fellow graduate students—faced the problem of students coming late to class. As a beginning instructor then, I didn’t know what to do, so I talked to my supervisor, and he suggested that I tried doing an interesting activity at the beginning of each class, before the main lesson. He said it would help me avoid wasting time while waiting for the late students, and it would also be a reward for those students who arrived on time.

I followed my supervisor’s suggestion and soon enough noticed positive results: Because the students expected me to do something interesting and informative at the beginning of every class, more of them tried to come on time. In addition, by trying to do an activity directly related to the lesson, I also gave the students the opportunity to “warm-up” and get ready for the lesson. Finally, these activities established some sort of everyday routine, which my students were looking forward to.

Below I provide a short list of some of these activities, which I hope can give you ideas for your own class.

  1. Introduce an English-learning website. You can show students the resource that relates to your lesson. For example, if you are going to teach a particular grammar principle, you can introduce a website with more information, examples, and practice exercises for students to do on their own.
  2. Present a lesson-related idiom and explain it (See more about online resources for learning idioms)
  3. Present a common prefix, suffix, or root. Explain the meaning and provide examples (See more online resources for building vocabulary through word parts)
  4. Read an interesting ongoing story.
  5. Share current news. It can be an event on the national or international level, or from your local context.
  6. Tell a joke or a funny story.
  7. Show a short video related to the lesson. I personally like public service announcement videos: They are short, thought provoking, and oftentimes result in interesting discussions with students.
  8. Explain a local tradition or custom, or simply teach a culturally related principle.
  9. Describe a dish from the local cuisine and show the picture of the dish if possible. If time allows, you can also explain how to make it.
  10. Present and explain a famous quotation, related to your lesson.
  11. Describe (or demonstrate) one of your hobbies.
  12. Introduce and briefly describe an interesting movie you have recently watched.
  13. Tell an interesting personal story.
  14. Share your language learning experience (if applicable). Sometimes I also shared mistakes that I had made as a language learner.
  15. Show photos or slides from your trip to an interesting place (e.g., a national park, a different city, country).
  16. Introduce a famous person from the history of the country you teach in.
  17. Introduce a culturally related item. If you teach in the United States, see the list of American cultural items in my other blog post.
  18. Introduce a popular (or your favorite) local attraction.
  19. Introduce a popular (or your favorite) place to visit (e.g., a city, a national park, a national monument).
  20. Use one of the classroom routines I described in one of my previous blogs.

As you see, these are very simple activities, but with your effort and creativity you can make them interesting and meaningful for your students. Remember that the most important thing is to be consistent, enthusiastic, and motivating!

If you have other ways to promote student punctuality, please share in the comments below!

About Elena Shvidko

Elena Shvidko
Elena Shvidko is an assistant professor at Utah State University. She received her doctorate in second language studies from Purdue University and her master’s degree in TESOL from Brigham Young University. Her work appears in TESOL Journal, System, Journal on Response to Writing, TESOL interest section newsletters, and TESOL's New Ways series. Her research interests include second language writing, multimodal interaction, interpersonal aspects of language teaching, and teacher professional development.
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4 Responses to 20 Teaching Ideas to Decrease Student Lateness

  1. Lottie Moore says:

    According to a research, attendance and punctuality are important factors in academic success- being late or absent may set back a student in daily lecture and may become a reason to decrease in coursework scores.

    • Elena Shvidko Elena Shvidko says:

      Thank you for this comment. I fully agree. At the beginning of my post I mentioned that this idea was implemented in a community English class, which met in the evenings and was mainly attended by immigrants from the local community (with a wide range of ages). They tried their best to be in class on time, but oftentimes they were coming to class from work and some were simply a few minutes late.

  2. Elena Shvidko Elena Shvidko says:

    Oh that’s a great idea! What songs do you use?

  3. Reem Nasraldeen says:

    Nice!
    I also asign a weekly song they chose it and we sing it together.
    They feel refresh and active espically because they feel that they can sing in English!
    Thanks for your tips. I will absolutely follow them.

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