How to Hybrid. Part 2: Hybrid Hacks and Activities


What’s been the biggest hurdle for you since switching to hybrid teaching? In my experience the big four are tech issues, dividing your time and attention between two sets of students, students not interacting properly and lesson planning.

Now, there is no quick fix for all of these issues; much like when we went online back in March there is a period of adaptation having some students face-to-face and others online, but once you and your students have fully adapted to hybrid classes you could have the best of both worlds. In this blog post, I’m going to explain ways to achieve this.

  1. Hacks

A solid lesson plan

Let’s be honest, there have been many occasions when what I’ve heard referred to as “Door handle” planning has helped us out. Not to mention the fact we often come up with our best ideas when we’re not too tied into our lesson plan. When it comes to both hybrid and online teaching, that won’t really work. You need to be sure you have plenty of material for the entire lesson.

We need to realise that, while you’re trying to get the class to be as one, the fact of the matter is; they aren’t. Set your objectives for the class accordingly. Maybe you want to work on Questions. The objective for students in class could be question formation, and for those at home answering questions. .

Models and  focal points

This “problem” of having two separate classes can obviously be turned into an advantage. Clearly you can teach the class as one entity but that doesn’t mean you can’t use the groups differently. Making sure students at home feel both included and also important are keys to integration.

Make them the stars. They don’t have masks on! You can work on mouth shape and pronunciation to help students in class. When you need a model for a role play or activity, start with students at home. If you need a scribe for your whiteboard because you’re floating on your sweet spot ask someone at home to take control. Not only will this make them feel more included, it’ll lighten your load.

Positioning is key. If you read my previous blog about setting up a hybrid classroom you’ll be aware of how key your positioning is to the students both at home and in the class. Go to the sweet spot in your room and teach to both groups at the same time with an external camera. If you’re trapped behind your computer all you’ll end up with is an online class with an audience.

Think about your students’ positioning here too. Do you have a chance to give that sweet sport to a students?


Strictly speaking it is possible to do hybrid classes with the hardware directly from the computer. I can assure you, if that’s what you’re trying you won’t have very many satisfied students and you’ll end up a very frustrated teacher. Investing in an extra camera, speakers and an external mic are the first steps to getting properly set up. If possible I’d advise getting a cordless keyboard and mouse to help mobility around the room.

Remove the speakers

Getting tied to the computer fiddling with breakout rooms can be an absolute nightmare. Should you have fewer than 5 students at home, let them be their own breakout room. If you don’t want the other students to hear what they’re saying simply unplug speakers or turn the volume right down. When you’re getting stuck into a two team activity or debate, you can mute the class room mic as well to ensure silence for both parties.

Book Club

Something I found very frustrating at first was how much faster students at home would finish tasks. Instead of wasting time and paper sending fast finishers, why not get them to read a book, or an English blog, or even a page on Wikipedia. That way there is minimum classroom disruption and if you want to get the students talking again afterwards you can get your face-to-face students to ask questions about what their online counterparts are reading. You can find a list of graded readers here.

Disinfected teacher’s desk

When you don’t have a huge group at home why not disinfect your desk space and let one of your students join the online group. The added bonus here is you can have an in-class scribe for your white board.

2. Activities

That’s enough about little things we can do to make our lives easier, now let’s see which activities can get our students working together.  I’ve spent most of my teaching life trying to come up with ideas that keep the class fresh and interesting. Here are a few which are really well suited to hybrid teaching.

Presentations great and small

One thing that I’ve always worked on with my students from the age of 6 is public speaking. Whenever a student speaks to the class I tell them it’s a presentation. The only difference now is that when my students do their presentations they direct them to the camera. Everyone can see them. Those at home have a direct connection and those in the class can see them on the board, in a way giving them a taste of what the online group can see. I’d start these with simple 30 second introduction presentations and build from there.

Tik Tok

Whether you like it or not Tik Tok is here and for now at least it’s here to stay. How many of you can name the young lady pictured to the left?

I’m certain your students will be aware that Charlie D’Amelio is a 16 year old with more followers than the entire population of Germany. This is all beside the point. As I mentioned earlier sometimes making a class fun and relevant should come first and the language should follow, particularly so in these challenging times. Working on a short Tik Tok dance can motivate all of the students. You can then go into the language of the song, not to mention the choreography. When working on the vocab from unit 3 of Poptropica English Islands 2 (Move Your body) the class turned the vocab into our very own tik-tok dance, to the beat of Savage Love by Jason Derulo. If you’re working on phrasal verbs get your students to chose their tune, make a dance and show them to their peers.

Music Videos

The idea was born from my recent obsession with The Greatest Showman.  The beauty of having the students on camera is they can see themselves on the big screen, which can really help with copying dance moves. I started by simply playing the song and asking students to dance along. Before too long they were singing too. After 3 classes we had a whole raft of new vocabulary. It’s quite funny when you have an eleven year old boy referring to himself as a renegade because he didn’t bring a pen to class and was using a sharpie instead.

Research Groups

This was an activity that came about when breakout rooms became available. I’ve found it can work just as well in a hybrid class. There are two basic options here. Either you send the students at home off, as a group, to find out some information about a person, an event in history, a scientific phenomenon etc. After they’ve spent some time researching they return to the room and report back what they’ve learnt and the students in class can ask some further probing questions.

Alternatively you can get students in class to also research a person, an event in history, a scientific phenomenon etc using either their own phone or something you’ve prepared yourself, such as a wikipedia article or other example. Students can then present their findings to each other.


Late night TV has taught me that interviews work just as well with video conferencing. This is another area you can work your online class into the fabric of the lesson. I linked it to the previous activity. After the students were done researching their artists they were interviewed in character by the class.

One member of the focus group I work with, Indi, told me of a student who was very shy when he was in class. However,  when he got home he really came out of his shell and would use a cardboard cut out of his favourite K-pop star as his interviewee. When he was in the comfort of his own surroundings he suddenly had a new confidence.


This is my favourite activity for any class of almost any age. It’s also a really fun game to play on a roadtrip. It can be worked into almost any of the above activities. The aim of this task is to be able to come up with effective questions but also ease them naturally into conversation. Students simply chose a song then create questions to the lyrics. I usually do an example in class and help students get started before sending them off to work on it at home before presenting it in class.

There is an example here of me chatting to Taylor Swift. (This whole activity makes a lot more sense if you watch the video).

The way I changed this for hybrid classes was to simply allow students to ask their questions. Other students first have to answer them and see if they can guess the song. The next step I took was to have one student ask the questions and different students (in the opposite group) answer them with the song lyrics. After students have worked on their questions a few times they’re far more confident and they can then talk to their favourite popstar.

Information Gap

One of the most used tasks in EFL teaching. Here is the perfect way to unite two groups despite their obvious division. The example is a simple gap fill exercise from the same text. Alternatively you can give different texts to each group and questions to get to the root of the other group’s reading. This is something I got from watching one of Michael Brand’s Pearson & BBC’s live classes – these are something you really should check out!

Show and Tell 

Here is one we generally use with younger learners but can work with older groups too. Again it builds the online students’ protagonism. Simply ask them to bring their favourite toy, pet, book, item of clothing. Class students then ask questions about said item. You can also get students at home to do treasure hunts around their houses while in class students complete a task or cheer on their team player.

Mannequinns and Mimes

When it comes to mimes and charades, hybrid classes are the perfect place to perfect your art. As mentioned with the music videos, students can see themselves so they can fine tune their skills.

Whether you’re online, offline or even in a hybrid classroom the Mannequin Challenge is always a popular activity. It can be used for a wide range of grammar and vocabulary topics. First you get the students to strike a pose (Personality adjectives for example) take a screenshot (I use the snipper tool. windows key+ shift+ s) then share the screen shot with the class. If you don’t fancy screen shotting you can simply nominate one student to say exactly what’s going on. Students can then guess what their classmates are trying to express. This can generate a great deal of language and can thus be used to then create the basis of a project. 

Secret Dancer

The last activity I’m going to talk about today is Secret Dancer. I´m sure you remember playing wink murder as a child. I used to love that game. This is a much less macabre version of that game. Simply elect one person as the lead dancer and one as the detective.  The lead dancer slowly adds in different dance moves and the other students follow. The detective must figure out who the lead dancer is. This is a great activity for  any kind of speculation. My 7 year-olds are using phrases like: “I reckon it’s Pepe and it could be Lorenzo.”


I hope this post helps you in your quest to get the best from both worlds in your hybrid class!

All materials taken from:

Real World

Poptropica English 


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