Skip to content

Preparing For When you Are Unprepared

While we should always strive to "be prepared," situations will sometimes arise - illness, family emergency, an overwhelming project, etc., that can prevent our being prepared for a particular class session. Should that happen, consider having the following strategies as a back-up plan:

  • "Focus on a key concept addressed in a previous session and with the students input, identify relevant examples and many perspectives from which the issue might be viewed. This will help the students foster a more comprehensive understanding of the concept. For example, if your Business Law class had studied bankruptcy, they might focus on a recently announced corporate bankruptcy. Divide the class into groups of three or four students, and have each group focus on the case from a different viewpoint, such as a stakeholder group, an employee, suppliers, shareholders, the business media, etc." (Lyons)
  • "Recruit a guest speaker from your circle of friends and/or a colleagues who you know has made a presentation on a topic of relevance in your course. Ask him/her to share their presentation and answer student questions that might emerge. Take good notes during the presentation, and use these to stimulate further discussion and reinforce important concepts after the guest leaves." (Lyons)
  • "Identify a late-breaking news story related to your course. Assign student groups one of several key roles, such as the press, a governmental agency investigator, a private interest group, etc. to formulate a response to the situation. Ask each group to select a representative to share their response with the large group or serve on a panel to present the case to the public. Thoroughly debrief the perspectives expressed." (Lyons)
  • "Divide the class into small groups of three or four students, and ask them to develop five questions that you would consider for inclusion on the next examination. You might consider "chunking" the material so that each group has a different key concept." (Lyons) After they have developed the questions, consider assigning new groups so that there is one representative from each "chunk" in each new group. Have them share their questions with each other, modifying as needed. Prior to turning them in for your consideration, have the original groups reconvene and make any changes to the questions based on the input they received.


Lyons, R. "How to Survive When You're Not Prepared for Class." Tip of the Week. Faculty Development Associates (2007): n.pag. Web. 27 May 2010.

Center for Teaching Excellence
TLC Building
400 N. Capitol, Suite 324
Lansing, MI 48933
Phone: (517) 483-1680
Additional contact information

Facebook Teaching Innovation Blog
Open Hours
Monday - Friday: 9 am - 5 pm

To send an APPLEGRAM online,
fill-out the Applegram form.