Anyone who has worked with young learners is well aware of how active children can be. As children have lots of extra energy and tend to have shorter attention spans than older learners, it is important for the teachers to develop a series of ‘up the sleeve’ activities to keep their classes moving at a good pace and to keep the children ‘on their toes’.  This article includes a variety of five minute activities which help spice up the EFL class and maintain children’s attention.

Blackboard or Whiteboard Activities


  • What’s missing? Write 4 or 5 numbers on the board. Tell the children ‘Close your eyes’ and rub out one of the numbers (or cover it with a form). Children open their eyes and must say the number that is missing. Once they have played a few times, encourage children to come to the front of the class and rub out the numbers. This can also be done with pictures, flashcards or IWB images.


  • What is number three? Draw 3 or 4 classroom objects or animals on the board. Write random numbers (from 1-10) next to the pictures. Ask questions such as “What is number 7?” Ss: It’s a cat!What number is monkey?” Ss: Three!! Point to pictures and ask: Is it a (mouse)?


  • What is it? Begin drawing a picture on the board (for example, a mouse) but draw it very, very slowly stopping every once in a while for students to guess what you are going to draw. Ask ‘What is it?’


Physical Response Activities


  • Please…. Tell the children that they are going to play a game. They must only do the actions if the teacher says the word ‘please’. For example, say Please stand up (children stand up), please jump (children jump), close your eyes (children shouldn’t close their eyes as the word please was not said).


  • Human numbers. Encourage the children to make numbers with their body. Say a number, the children try to form the number. Once they have done this a few times, they can try to form numbers with other members of the class.


  • Back drawing. Encourage the children to draw a number from 1-20 on their partner’s back. Their partner tries to guess the number then draws a number on the other child’s back.


  • Body Connectors. Place the children in pairs or groups of 3. Give commands such as ‘Hand to hand’ (children put their hands together). Later, add commands such as Hand to arm, Arm to foot. Option: When the children have played a few rounds tell them that when you call out “body connectors” that they should change partners.


When working with large groups of young learners it is important to be prepared for the unexpected. Children, like adults, are unpredictable hence, as teachers, we should always be ready to change the pace of the class and channel the children’s energy.

Have fun and good luck keeping them on their toes!

First published in The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. XIII, No. 8, August 2007


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