Saturday, 13 August 2016

Judo Camp ~ Action Games for ESL

This summer vacation I was asked to teach 4 lessons to the students of a Judo Summer Camp in my town (each on separate nights). Now, I wasn't given much to prepare for but I took it upon myself to plan action packed activities as it seemed to fit in my mind, considering they were students of a martial art. Also, it's a summer camp - I wanted to keep it light. Good thing I thought ahead as the teaching space had no chairs or tables, just a large long room with a podium on a stage at one end.

Moreover, the first 2 classes have been an absolute hit. I managed to fill up an hour with games that touched on some basic English and had lots of fun. I believe that I will be able to use these games again with more narrow topics and even adjust them to be more difficult but for camp activities - simple was perfect. Please take a read and see if you can use some of these action packed games in your classes!

Circle Lock Game - This one was given to me by my mum, also a teacher. She usually gets the kids to piggyback each other instead of 'lock'. 

Get the class into pairs.
Create two circles, one inner, one outer.
Review some verbs with the class like: march, stomp, run, jump, hop, skip, walk backwards, slither, crawl, etc.
Next, tell the kids of the outer circle that they will have to be the ones to act out the verbs you call out. They will do these actions while walking clockwise around the circle, they can only ever go clockwise around, make that clear.
Tell them when you call out a code word – “banana” for example, that’s the signal for them to run around the circle clockwise, back to their partner and lock with their partner. They cannot run any other direction and they must not run through the circle either.
Lock – it’s when you face back to back with your partner and entwine your arms.

The last pair to lock is out. They can either sit in the centre of the circle or just outside of the game playing area.
Play until there are only 2 pairs left!
By the end of the game they would have learnt new verbs because during each round you, the teacher, are calling out the different verbs you taught before the game started. Also, to make it more difficult you can also review adverbs like slowly and quickly. "Jump slowly, crawl quickly..."

Find Your Animal - ESL Kids has a great choice of free animal flashcards for you to download
Make some cards, enough for everyone in class. On the cards there should be pictures of animals that the students know. Important ! Make sure the animals you choose have a easy and well known 'sound' that the kids could make to represent it. A giraffe or zebra will be too difficult... think Old McDonald's farm...
You should make at least 2 cards of each animal so that the students can make pairs; you can also make 4 or 6 of each to make teams, if a large class.
Now, the rules of the activity are that no one must reveal their card or speak. They can only communicate by making a noise that the animal on their card makes. E.g. Dog – bark, cat- meow, etc.
They must find their group or partner by making their animal noises. It’s a fun game that’s really noisy but great for a warm up, ice breaker or making teams.

Say Please

Like Simon Says, but instead of “Simon says…” you say “please”.
If you don’t say please the students shouldn’t do it.
Review body parts before you play and the word touch.
The teacher says “Touch your nose, please”, “Touch your feet, please”…etc.
The kids who do the action without please will be out.
Tell them to sit down until the last kids standing.

Secret Dancer

Choose one kid to be the detective and leave the room.
Next, one kid out of the class in the room must be the ‘secret dancer’.
They have to do a dance move and then the rest of the class copies them, they must do it secretly.
The detective can enter the class and he/she must try to find the secret dancer.

Race to the Vocab 
Lay out a bunch of words or images on cards at one end of the room.
Get the class into 2 teams or 4.
Have them line up at the other side of the room.
Tell them when you call out a word they have to run to the other end and try to be the first to get the word back to their team. You can have a box to put the words in.
It’s basically a race to get the best word. Have lots of space for room to run.

Alternative to above ^ : Fishing For Vocab - A game I played at camp! See more here (scroll down in post). 

Music Number Game
Two ways to play.
First, the simple way, play music and have the kids dance. When the music stops shout out a number.
The students must form a group according to the number called out.
Now, a way to play this but higher level and for the older kids – teach them some verbs like jump, crawl, hop, skip, etc. Then shout out those while the music plays to practice these verbs instead of dance. (Also, some teens don’t like to dance, so it’s a good way to keep them active in the game).

Final Class; Review:

For our final class, I wanted to review or 'test' the kids on the verbs we had learnt. So, I got the class split into groups of 5 - 6 and had them line up in rows. The first person at the front of each row had to come to the front of the class and I would shout out the verbs we had learnt and they would have to act it out, simple. Verbs - jump, hop, sleep walk, walk backwards, turn, skip, star jump, crawl, swim, dance, etc... I also quickly reviewed "slow" and "fast". I would add fast or slow to some of the verbs I called out also. I'd call out at least 6 verbs each round. Now, the test worked by asking my husband to act as the 'judge' and choose which group had the best representative - the student up front that seemed to know the verbs the best (wasn't waiting for the others to know what to do, etc). It's obviously hard to judge but we were as fair as possible. I awarded points every round to the winning team and for the final round I said I'd give 10 points to the best group - and this gave them a chance to still be able to win, even if behind. It was a fun test and the prize I gave to the winning team was a choice of what last game we could play in the final moments of class. :)

For more kinaesthetic learning games, stay tuned, I still have 2 more classes to go! 
Happy Teaching! 


  1. Your students were so lucky to have such a dedicated teacher.