Movement In Adult Classes
When and how to use TPR-like activities with adult learners.
Written by Alex Case for EnglishClub
Although moving the body around by miming, acting things out etc is much more common in young learner classes, there are almost as many reasons for bringing it into adult classes too. It is perhaps most often seen as a nice break from sitting around and studying or a way of waking students up, but more important is the fact that moving while reading, listening etc is a good way of learning.
There is also a caveat, however. There is the danger of some students and classes reacting very negatively to any obviously game-like activities in class, let alone being asked to stand up and wave their arms around. Classes where you might want to introduce TPR-style activities late, with care or not at all include ones in which:
Approaches that still might allow you to use movement in such classes include:
Having said all the above, I have used movement in IELTS classes (for trends language for Writing Part One), Technical English classes (for typical verbs in their work) etc without any justification given or complaints received, and would generally recommend to always keep the possibility of getting students to move in mind. As well as being fun and a good warmer, it is a good general approach to learning language that students might also be able to use outside class and is the best way of presenting and practising certain language points. I therefore won’t give a list of people who movement is suitable for – because if it’s done properly my starting position is that virtually all classes should move around sooner or later, and that most certainly includes shy students.
How to use movement in adult classes
There are five main approaches to the use of physical movement in adult EFL classes:
Examples of each of these are given below.
1. Movements in response to instructions
Asking for directions is the most common use of this kind of activity, e.g. with one student explaining where to go on a map and another student tracing or drawing the route. With classes who need to or are happy to stretch their legs, it is also possible to give instructions for walking around the classroom in the same way. A variation which isn’t often thought of as being physical is Invisible Pen, in which two standing students take turns asking questions to “find” an imaginary pen that was “placed” somewhere in the classroom while they weren’t looking.
Another good use of this approach is for one student to explain how to do something, e.g. programme a video recorder, and for the other student to follow the instructions on the real object or a large photo. Both of these uses are also obviously good for imperatives (should that be a grammar point you actually need to spend time on).
Any of the games in Watching Mimes and Responding below could also be played with students following the instructions of how to move their body and then guessing what action they are doing rather than watching other people doing it.
2. Watching mimes and responding
This use is similar to the game Give Us a Clue, in which people watching try to guess movie titles etc from mimes. People generally just shout out what they think is being mimed, but it is also possible to respond to what they think is being mimed, e.g. “I think you are feeling disappointed. Are you okay?” and “When I said stop you were thinking. What were you thinking about?”
As long as the teacher chooses the things carefully so that they can actually be mimed, students can act out:
3. Saying something and acting it out
The most common example of this is students getting up to act out a dialogue, and the same thing can be done using things such as pencils on their desks to represent people. You can also add more connection between the action and the language by giving them roleplay cards that involve more movement, e.g. “Your partner is in a fishing boat a few metres from the shore and wound up in fishing line. Tell him/ her how to get out of it” and “You have lost your voice. Stop someone in the street and get them to phone your husband/ wife to ask them to pick you up.”
The other way of adding more action (and the language that is tied in more with it) is to get students to read out some prose rather than a dialogue while they act things out, e.g. giving them cut outs of common fairytale characters and objects and ask them to move them around an A3 photocopy of an enchanted land while they make up or retell their stories.
4. Movement tied to the game rather than the language
The two most common examples of this are a Running Dictation and mingling games. In the former, one student runs (or more commonly walks quickly) to a text that their partner can’t see, walks back to their partner and dictates whatever they can remember of it, then goes back to read and remember in the same way. This continues until one pair has transferred the whole text successfully to their paper.
In a mingling game, students have to stand up and walk round to speak to most or all of the other students, e.g. to find something that they have done and no one else has with “Have you ever…?” questions.
5. Moving between activities
My general philosophy on changing groups is that the minimum movement is quickest and easiest, e.g. moving one person to the other end of the semi-circle of students and so changing pairs along the whole row. However, this can also be a good opportunity to get students to stretch their legs and so liven up their brains. Perhaps the easiest and most active (although usually also the most time consuming) is just to ask students to stand up, find someone they haven’t worked with, and sit down together somewhere. You can also organise this by giving students matching cards and asking them to stand up and find the other Student A etc.
Written by Alex Case for EnglishClub | January 2013
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