So, you’ve been teaching your current students for nearly a year now. You’ve gone through board games, dice games, card games… and more dice games. As a teacher, you feel you’ve exhausted your fun activities and your students are a bit… shall we say, wise, to your bag of tricks. You want to finish off the next couple of months before summer with a bang, so how do you do it? Incorporating more creative and active theatre-inspired games might be just the ticket! The best part? Many theatre games can be adapted to various levels and topics, giving you a new arsenal of ways to spice up your classroom, and keep students happy, focused and learning as we enter these warm spring months and student engagement is just as important as ever.
Not only can theatre games sneakily get your students to use a wide variety of vocabulary and grammar, but these activities are wonderful for self-confidence and public speaking, especially for all of those high level business executives who are working on polishing their English presentation skills.
So where to begin? Well, I’ve listed a variety of theatre-inspired activities and included possible target language focuses for each one in brackets.
Let’s get started!
Sticky! [body part vocabulary]
Put students in pairs and turn on lively music. Ask the students to stand back to back and demonstrate that they are “super glued” together and they must dance and move to the music without ever becoming “unstuck” from their partner. Call out different body parts that your students must use to “stick” to their partner: nose, ears, hands, back, knees, cheeks, thumbs, shoulders, feet, elbows, etc. After the first round, you can ask one of the students to become the master to increase student talk time.
Walk Like A… [animals, verbs, transportation, temperature, environment vocabulary]
Students start walking around the room at a normal pace. Start calling out different animals, verbs, environments, etc, and have students act them out as they walk around. You can explore a wide variety of verbs including jump, skip and crawl. You can also branch out and add some more creative options: happy lion, sad bird, angry frog, in the desert, on the moon, the floor is made of super glue, etc. To keep student talk time high, split the room into small groups and have different students call out the options.
What Are You Doing? [present continuous]
Have your students get in a line at the edge of an open space in your classroom. The first person enters the space and begins to pantomime a simple activity–for example, brushing his teeth. The second person runs on and says, “What are you doing?” The first person may answer anything EXCEPT what he is actually doing. The first student might say, “I’m washing the car.” The moment the second person hears the answer, he or she must begin to pantomime the mentioned activity. The first person goes to the end of the line and the third person runs on and says, “What are you doing?” This game can also be switched to just be done in pairs, encouraging lots of creativity, energy, and high student talk time.
The “How are you?” Conversation [environments, intonation, context clues]
Pair students up and give them each a copy of the following short dialogue:
A: How are you?
B: I’m _____, thank you. And you?
A: I’m _____.
B: What’s your name?
A: My name is _______. What’s your name?
B: My name is _______.
A: Where do you come from?
B: I come from _______. Where do you come from?
A: I come from _______.
B: Nice to meet you.
Give them a chance to read through out loud together. Call out different environments (the library, dance club, beach) they need to have the conversation in. Practice all together as a group (it could get loud).
Next, give each pair a secret environment and have them perform for the class. Classmates must guess the environment. Possible environments could include an amusement park, a football game, in a bank line, in a blizzard, etc.
Party Quirks [improvisation, putting various topics together]
One person is having a party. Have your students decide the theme and location of the party. This party has quirky guests. Send your “host” student outside. Have your group decide the quirks of the party guests. When the host re-enters, he or she must guess the quirks through party dialogue. Alternate version for bigger groups: half of the group goes outside and each person is given a quirk or odd personality. Those students then come back in and all students mingle. The “normal” party guests must guess the quirks of the other party goers.
Freeze [improvisation, body parts, present continuous]
Two people enter the space and begin to improvise a scene, with dialogue and as much physical action as possible. At any moment, anyone else in the group may shout, “FREEZE!” The actors freeze instantly and exactly. The person who stopped the scene taps one of the actors on the shoulder. The actor sits down and the new person takes his or her position exactly. The new person must now initiate a new and DIFFERENT scene. The scene must flow naturally from the positions of the two bodies, and it is the new person’s responsibility to communicate to his or her partner and to the audience what the new scene is about. At any moment another person may shout, “FREEZE!” and it begins again. To bring even more students into the activity, have another student describe the frozen scene, for example, “Carmen is standing on one leg…”
Even though some of these activities tend to lean towards a particular set of target language, many can be adjusted to suit other topics as well with just a little tweaking. While many of these games are ideal for working with young learners, don’t underestimate the willingness of adults to let loose and bring out their inner kid in the classroom!
For more creative activities to incorporate to the class, have a look at these life saving ideas, that only require a few objects and a little imagination!