Change places if …
For this activity, with learners sitting on chairs in a circle, say,
for example Change places if you are wearing black shoes. If
learners are wearing black shoes, they should change places
with another learner in the circle. If they are not wearing
black shoes, they can stay where they are. As well as general
statements (age, clothes they are wearing, likes and dislikes),
you could use ideas and themes taken from the story. To
make the activity more fun and challenging, you could
remove one chair from the circle so that learners have to
move quickly if they don’t want to be left without a seat!
This energising activity encourages learners to listen and
respond, and can also prepare them for, or help them
practise, vocabulary from the story.
The name of this activity refers to what happens when you
look at the theme of the story and ask learners to pretend
that they are in that situation. For example, if the story is
about a birthday party, you might ask one of the learners to
shout out ‘It’s my birthday today’ and the rest of the class
to shout ‘Hooray!’. If the story is about sports, then learners
might create a movement from their favourite sport and the
rest of the class copy them.
This activity works well to introduce a story, getting learners
to think about it from their own perspective and bringing the
story to life from the start.
By giving learners the role of the teacher, this activity
enables them to take responsibility for teaching their peers
some vocabulary from the story. Assign a small group a word
(or a few words) and ask them to create some movement
for it. Provide support for learners as they plan and drill the
word before they present it to their peers and ask them to
repeat it. The level of the learners determines how many
words you assign; for high-level learners, you may even like
to assign short sentences.
Asking learners to take on the role of the teacher encourages
active learning and peer support. This activity also helps
learners to plan and organise collaboratively.
The class interviews a character from the story played by
you or one of your learners. Discuss the character with the
class first and ask what learners know about the character
and what questions they can already answer. Now give them
some time to think of more questions to ask the character.
This technique allows learners to explore the character, be
creative (they may have to create the answers as well as the
questions) and practise asking and answering questions.
Learn the lines
Give learners lines of direct speech from the story and ask
them to experiment with elements of speech such as pitch,
pause, intonation and stress. Thinking about the mood and
emotions of the characters helps to guide learners in how
they should deliver their lines.
This activity allows learners to focus on aspects of speech
and builds their confidence in speaking in general.
You can use this visualisation exercise to take learners on
a journey inside the story. Ask them to close their eyes and
imagine that they are within the story setting; perhaps they
have become one of the characters. Ask them questions as
you guide them through the story. Ask What can you see? and
How do you feel? This activity can also be used with learners
working in pairs where learners tell their partner a story or
an experience. Their partner will need to listen very carefully
to remember and visualise what they are hearing.
This exercise allows learners to give a personal account
of their experience within the story setting and helps to
activate their imaginations. It also provides an opportunity
to practise listening skills.
In this activity the class moves around sharing ideas or
asking and answering questions. You direct the activity by
giving instructions such as Change (learners move to find
another partner), Stop (the whole class stops moving or
talking) and Start (the class starts moving around the room
again). You can adapt this activity as much as you like. You
may like to shout out numbers so that learners have to get
into groups of that number (e.g. if you shout Five!, learners
get into groups of five before starting to discuss the topic).
This is a collaborative speaking activity with the added
element of movement.
Mime is a basic dramatic technique where learners act out
a story or action using only movement and gestures. This
activity raises learners’ awareness of movement and how
they express not only actions, but also emotions, through
the way their bodies move. Ensure learners keep the mime
slow and controlled so that they can explore the similarities
and differences in how they express themselves.
With learners in pairs, ask one to copy or ‘mirror’ the
movements of the other. The movements can be based on
the theme or vocabulary taken from the story; for example,
a learner could mime taking photos. Ask learners to keep
the movements slow and precise to allow their partner to
copy them as closely as they can. You can create more of a
challenge with this activity by asking learners to copy the
movements and then guess what they have mirrored.
This activity allows learners to focus on body language and
gestures as well as providing an opportunity to work and
collaborate with others.
Moving sound effects
For this activity you choose key words from the story and ask
learners to create a movement and sound for each word.
Adding movement and sound is a great way to bring some
of the vocabulary from the story to life. Having created
movement and sound for some of the key vocabulary before
even reading the story, learners are more likely to recognise
the words later on.
Pass it on
With learners sitting in a circle, first ask them to identify the
emotions of a story and discuss how they might express
those emotions. For example, they could express surprise
with their mouths wide open and hands to cheeks. After
they have discussed and experimented with a few different
emotions, ask learners to pass the emotion on to the person
next to them in the circle. One learner makes the expression
and the next copies it. Encourage them to keep their
gestures and expressions the same as those of the person
This activity is a nice way to explore how we all express
emotions in a different way. It’s also a nice activity to use in
circle time to encourage cooperation between learners.
Acting as a conductor of an orchestra, with learners sitting
in a circle around you, create a soundscape of a mood or
theme. For example, this could be a rainforest where some
learners use their voices to create the sounds of birds in the
trees and others tap their fingers on the floor to create the
sound of rain falling slowly. Discuss all the possible sounds
with learners first and then assign roles to each learner. The
sounds should build slowly; first direct one or two learners
to start and then gradually add the others. Slowly raise your
hands to increase the volume and lower them to decrease it.
One by one direct each learner to stop until the room returns
to silence. You could ask a learner to take the role of the
This activity requires good focus from learners and the
ability to follow instructions. Learners are exploring
themes and moods, and how to create an atmosphere that
Still images, freeze-frames and human sculptures
In still images and freeze-frames learners use their bodies
to create a frozen picture. A still image is a scene created
by learners using body language, gestures and facial
expressions. A freeze-frame is where learners freeze the
action in a scene. Human sculptures involve learners
working in pairs, one as the sculpture and one as the
These are great collaborative activities for learners, and
human sculptures enable more reluctant or shyer learners
to play a supportive role as a sculptor. The activities also
provide opportunities for peer feedback and discussion after
the presentation of the images or frames.
Use this activity to motivate and energise learners at the
start of the lesson. Ask learners to walk around and give
instructions as follows. Start with just ‘start’ and ‘stop’, and
then add different instructions as the activity goes on:
1 Start – Learners begin moving around the space.
2 Stop – Learners freeze on the spot.
3 Change – Learners change direction.
4 Jump – Learners jump up and down on the spot.
5 Clap – Learners clap their hands once.
6 Duck – Learners crouch down on the floor.
As learners become more familiar with the instructions, try
swapping them around. For example; say ‘Start’ means ‘stop’
and ‘stop’ means ‘start’. Learners will suddenly have to think
The story says …
If you are familiar with ‘Simon says’, you’ll know how this
activity works. Ask learners to move around the space, using
directions such as ‘Start’, ‘Stop’ and ‘Change’ (direction) to
get them moving. Using the target vocabulary of the lesson,
for example, The story says tennis and the learners mime
playing tennis, with sound effects too. Pre-teach and agree
on the movements for the set of vocabulary before playing
the game so that everyone is doing the same actions. If you
don’t say The story says, then learners freeze. You can make
this game more competitive by asking learners to sit down
or move to the side if they have moved when they shouldn’t
This fun game uses total physical response (TPR) to
practise recognising new vocabulary. It can provide further
vocabulary practice if you ask learners to say the words as
they do the actions.
Ten seconds only
The name of this activity refers to a short scene which
should last as close to ten seconds as possible. Ask learners
to get into groups and give them time to devise and rehearse
a scene before presenting it to the class. Ask them to use
concise language and simple movements.
Giving learners a very strict time limit means that they must
first consider and discuss possibilities before selecting what
they present. This is a collaborative activity that also helps
to develop learners’ decision-making skills.
Use this technique with freeze-frames to help learners to
narrate and bring a scene to life for a short period of time.
Ask groups to present freeze-frames and then get them
to discuss in their groups what they think each character
might be thinking or feeling. This ‘thought track’ could be
one word or a short sentence; it could even be just a noise!
Move around the room supporting the groups as they plan
their ‘thought tracks’ and ensuring that each learner has
something ready. Now ask them to present their frozen
pictures again and when you tap the shoulder of each
learner in turn they share their ‘thought track’ with the class.
This provides a great opportunity for developing stories
further and gives learners further opportunities to comment
and speculate on the story of the picture. This activity
also gets learners to consider emotions and attitudes, and
Learners present a short script or a line inspired by the story.
Ask them to think about elements of voice such as intonation
and pitch. Practise the lines with the learners before asking
them to create a short TV advert to present to the class.
Depending on their age and level, learners can add their own
dialogue. They must consider facial expression and gestures
when creating their advert as the aim is to convince the
audience of what they are saying. This activity works well if
you demonstrate an example first, making it exaggerated
This activity provides an opportunity for learners to
experiment with voice as well as to practise general
presentation skills using body language, facial expression
and gestures. Higher-level learners can also focus on
elements of persuasive language.
First tell learners that when you mention a character, object
or event, they are going to make a pose. With the class in a
circle, begin reading the story. As soon as a character, object
or event is mentioned, invite a learner (or learners) to enter
the circle and make a pose. For example, read from the
story It’s Saturday morning. Tom and Zoe are in Treetop Park
and they’re playing baseball. Ask two learners to enter the
circle and pretend to play baseball, and that other learners
should create a tableau of the park, posing as trees, children
playing, etc. As you continue reading the story, beckon
more learners into the middle to take part, and ensure
everyone has a chance. When the action becomes too lively
or congested, say Whoosh! and all the learners return to their
places in the circle before you continue with the story and
they take new roles. As learners become more comfortable
with this, they can repeat lines from the story or improvise
This technique is a wonderful way to bring a story to life
while ensuring that everyone has a part to play. It can be
repeated several times with learners taking new roles. As
they become more familiar with the story, they will be more
confident about adding dialogue and more movement.
(By Rachel Jeffries)