Have you ever been asked “What’s the one thing you wish you had more of?” most people instinctively reply “Money, give me more monaaaaay!” If you’d asked me 10 years ago the same question I would have replied in the same fashion but I guess with age we come to see things with a little more clarity.  Now my answer would be “Time”.  Time is everything, isn’t it peeps?  Stephen Hawkins wouldn’t disagree and I’ve come to realize that maybe spending almost your entire life on the subject isn’t a wild goose chase after all.  I’ve come to appreciate it more and more in recent years and think that it’s worth reflecting on, from time to time 😉  With that said, I also can’t deny that I’ve incorporated this new appreciation for time in ESL lessons.  How can one not? There’s great vocabulary and material to be visited there, and everyone has an opinion since most of the time they will talk about it in relative terms. So let’s have a look at what we can do with this subject in language learning circles shall we.

Here are some expressions you can start with:

Time is a great healer.  Time is money.  Time waits for no one.  Tomorrow never comes.  Time flies when you are having fun.  There’s no time like the present.  You’re only young once.  You cannot save time; you can only spend it.

In small groups ask your class to discuss these sayings.  Do they agree or disagree with them?

Alternatively, you could just put one of these as a starter and save the others for the finale, up to you.

Here’s another activity:

In small groups, discuss when the best time in life is to do these things:

Get married, retire, have kids, travel, leave home

In small groups put these words in chronological order.

Homework, nappies, retirement, exams, housework, marriage, parties, acne, responsibility, paper airplanes, grey hair, teddy bears

Here’s another warm-up:

Dictate the following activities to students:

Food preparation, eating, dish washing, housekeeping, shopping, school/paid work, studying at home, traveling, physical exercise, meeting friends/ going out, watching TV, reading/ hobbies, personal care/hygiene, sleeping (add more if you have ideas)

Ask students to write down how much time they spend doing these things in a week.  When they have written down all the hours ask them to add them up and see if they accurately accounted for(vocab word!) all their time.  Then get them to discuss in pairs or small groups about what hours they spend on these things.

Questions students could ask:

How much time do you spend doing x?  How many hours do you…? Do you spend as time doing x as you do y?  What do you spend the most/least time on? What would you like to spend less time on?  When you were younger did you use to spend more or less time on x? etc.

As you can see there’s plenty of questions on the subject peeps.  You can adapt this stuff as you see fit for your age group or level, but even if you have advanced students this stuff is good practice.  Before we look at more questions on this, you may be asking where the vocabulary is at?  Well, we got collocations up the wazoo here, check it out:

Spend time, waste time, save time, free/spare time, kill time and my favorite, bang/dead/right on time, or, another fave, just in the nick of time.

You can also use these expressions: have time for, tell someone the time, make time for, take your time (very important), have a good/great time, had the time of my life, to run out of time, it is taking ages, from dusk till dawn, recent past, past few weeks etc.

As you can see peeps, it’s a slam dunk!  Choose any of the vocabulary here and incorporate it as you like.  A matching exercise will do the trick, where you have to match halves of the expressions.  Or a word scramble to find the words that collocate with time if you’ve got kids.  Another option is to produce a short text with the words in it and ask students to underline anything related to the topic so this way they have context for the language.  You can find exercises on the vocabulary in this book.

Here are some more questions to choose from:

  • Name something that is a waste time and say why?
  • What is “quality time”? What is the “leisure society”?
  • Are you a “night owl” or an “early bird”?
  • How important is time in your culture?
  • Do you think you manage your time wisely?
  • Are you on time?
  • Do you like to be busy or do you prefer to have an easy schedule? Explain.
  • Do you prefer to show up late or early to events/ functions/ parties, work?
  • What would you do if you had a few extra hours in the day?
  • Does waiting for something bother you?

As you can see, there’s enough vocabulary and questions here to cover your class time thoroughly.  I’m sure if you got a class of sophisticated students you can find some info graphic or text extracts if you so wished, which would add a reading element to the deal.  Look for some quotes on time by famous peeps and you can incorporate that too if that is what fancies you.  Boom, you’re good.

I wish there was more time peeps, I truly do.  In any case, hopefully these ideas provide your students a lesson that helps them reflect and appreciate time, as much as we should.  Happy lessons and here is a quote you can use with some additional vocabulary:

Know the true value of time; snatch, seize, and enjoy every moment of it. No idleness, no laziness, no procrastination: never put off till tomorrow what you can do today. – Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield





2 Comments. Leave new

  • Rebecca Tomlinson
    June 10, 2018 20:45

    Thanks for sharing this with other teachers. It’s a great idea that I’m going to use with a private student. May I reciprocate by helping you? “…what fancies you” is incorrect. Did you mean “whatever you fancy?” I wonder if you confused this with “whatever takes your fancy”. You do the fancying. A person may fancy you (=be attracted to you in a boy/girl type of way). An object or idea can’t fancy anyone, but it may take your fancy (=it catches your eye/the thought comes to you and you like it).
    Keep up the good work!

    • Thank you for your comment,you’re right. I did misuse the expression and I meant what you suggested which was ‘ whatever you fancy’. I appreciate your feedback and correction, it’s all about collaboration. Thanks for positivity and encouragement and glad you found the lesson useful. Please feel free to comment in the future if you so wish to let me know of other errors I might have missed or just simply want to reach out. All the best


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