Top 10 Classroom Activities for Children
We all know how important it is to keep children engaged in the classroom, but it’s sometimes hard to think of new activities to keep them on their toes. As you take a little break over the summer, you may be wondering how you can add to your activity bank to make your lessons as engaging as possible. Fear not, fellow teachers, we have a list of our top 10 tried and tested activities for kids that we know will help keep those little ones happy in class!
1. Baamboozle (baamboozle.com)
Who it can be used with: We’ve used this online tool with children from early primary to the beginning of secondary.
How to play: The premise is simple; you create questions which are then placed randomly on a numbered board for the students to choose from and answer. The students work in teams and whichever team has the most points at the end of the game wins. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. These questions can be gap fills, multiple choice, simple Q/A or images. With the free option, there are still plenty of available functions to make some really engaging games. You can either make your own questions or search the extensive Baamboozle database for many more games relating to the topic you are teaching. You can choose the basic option of just questions or include power-ups to make it more exciting and increase the tension.
Our top tip is to turn any kind of language review element from the coursebook into a Baamboozle at the end of the topic or unit. If you’re teaching from a popular coursebook, you may even find that someone has already done the hard work for you and made the unit review into a Baamboozle game. The best part of this is that even though the material is the same, the students react so much more positively to any kind of language review presented in this way. They don’t even realise they are revising grammar when they see it on a Baamboozle!
2. Stop the bus!
Who it can be used with: This fun activity works well with students of older primary age.
How to play: This activity is a little bit like a quick version of ‘categories’, if you’ve ever played that. The teacher draws columns on the board and writes different topics or categories in each column. Then the teacher or the students choose letters at random, and these are written one-by-one at the side of the columns. As each letter is chosen, the students have to think of words which fit in each category and start with the given letter. Once the students (individually or in teams) have identified a word for each category, they shout ‘STOP THE BUS!’ at which point everyone needs to stop writing.
The teacher then goes through each group and students are awarded points based on correct and/or unique answers. You can also give them bonus points if they’re the team who ‘stops the bus’. This activity can be used for any kind of vocabulary revision and even verb forms in different tenses.
3. Fly Swatter Race
Who it can be used with: This activity can be used for all students of primary age, but it works particularly well with younger children.
How to play: First and foremost, you’re going to need to get your hands on some flyswatters. These can be picked up pretty easily from any shop which sells cheap home supplies. Once you have these, you can use them for any activity in the classroom in which students have to choose between a number of clear options. This could simply be 2 or 3 flashcards, or even a gapped sentence with 2 or 3 options. Place the options on the board or the wall of the classroom and get two students to come and face the board with the flyswatters by their side or behind their back. The teacher gives them a word, or signal to start and they have to swat the correct option. The student who gets their swatter in there first is the winner.
You could play it so that the winner stays on and other students come to the board to compete against them, or you could play in teams so that the winner just scores points for their team. A word or warning- be careful of overenthusiastic students and they might get a bit too enthusiastic with the flyswatter!
4. Jump the River
Who it can be used with: This works very well with younger primary students as it gets them up and moving around when they might be feeling a little low on energy in class.
How to play: For this activity, you’re definitely going to need to push the chairs and tables to the side of the room. Students stand in line and the teacher stands in front of them. The teacher gives instructions or says certain words and the students have to react with an action accordingly. You can make this as easy or difficult as you want, depending on your students, and the good thing is that the more you practise, the better the students become at reacting to the teacher input.
Some examples for instructions and actions might be:
If I say a colour, jump to the left.
If I say a body part, jump to the right.
If I say an animal, clap your hands.
If you hear an adjective, raise your hands.
5. Hearts and Bombs
Who it can be used with: This works well with slightly older primary-age students.
How to play: This is a great game for YLs, to practice questions and answers. First of all, you’re going to need to draw a grid on the board (make is a big as you wish), having prepared a reference grid beforehand. If you’re using an IWB, you could also pre-prepare a grid on a programme such as PowerPoint to save time. On your reference copy, complete the grid with hearts, bombs or questions (note, mainly fill the grid with questions so that the students are using their language as well as having fun).
Much like the game, battleships, the students choose a number and a letter, and the teacher reveals what is in the square. If the student finds a heart, then they win points (you can decide the number), if the students find a bomb, they lose points. If students land on a question, then they have to answer it correctly to win points. If you’re feeling particularly mean, they could lose points for getting a question wrong! You can also super charge the points by asking bonus or extra difficult questions.
6. Simon Says
Who it can be used with: This works well with children of all ages! No matter how old they are, Simon Says tends to remain an all-round fan-favourite.
How to play: Most of us have played this at some point in our lives, but maybe aren’t aware of its classroom possibilities. You can use Simon Says for a variety of language points and vocabulary. It is a good way to consolidate classroom language and instructions. We’ve also uses it to practise vocabulary related to topics such as the body, classroom objects, sports and daily routine.
For example, “Simon says…
…point to your ears, stick out your tongue, wiggle your bottom.”
…sit on your chair, line up at the door, put your hand up.”
…go to the board, take out your pencil case, touch the table.”
…play football, throw a ball, go swimming.”
…have a shower, brush your teeth, put on your coat.”
7. Missing Flashcard
Who it can be used with: This works best with younger children.
How to play: This activity is just one of the great ways you can simply but effectively revise vocabulary seen in class. Take the flashcards you’re using for a particular topic or unit. Place them on the floor or on the board and give students a set amount of time to look at them. Then tell the students to close their eyes for 10 seconds. In this time, the teacher (or another student) comes up and removes one of the flashcards. To make it extra hard, the remaining flashcards could also be jumbled around so they are not in the same order as before. The teacher then tells students to open their eyes and they have to guess which flashcard is missing.
To make it even harder, have more flashcards at the beginning and then remover more than one. You’ll really test their language memory skills!
8. Pelmanism for Vocabulary
Who it can be used with: This works well with all ages.
How to play: Otherwise known as the ‘memory game’ this simply revises students’ memory when it comes to something that they have learnt in class. The teacher creates a grid and places cards which match in some way face-down in a random order. The cards are then chosen by students and turned over. If the students find two matching cards, they win a point and those cards remain face-up for the rest of the time. The activity ends when all cards are facing up.
You can use this for simple image and word matching or take it a little further and think about verb/noun collocations or words which match in some way. For example, animals and where they live, or a country and its capital. You can make your own pelmanism cards, or you can find some ready-made ones online such as this one for simple vocabulary.
9. Mime the Action
Who it can be used with: We’ve used this successfully with all primary-age learners.
How to play: This activity works well because it’s based on movement and gets students out of their seats. Quite simply, students have to mime an action which relates to something they have learnt in class. For younger students this could be something like miming an animal or a sport. For older students you could start including verbs or even jobs. The possibilities are endless!
Who it can be used with: This works well with slightly older primary-age learners.
How to play: It works better with slightly older students because they have better pen control and are therefore able to draw the images more quickly and effectively. To play this in class, all you have to do is take a vocabulary set that you have been practising in class, from a vocabulary list in the coursebook or from an exam vocabulary list. Show the word to the student and ask them to draw it. The others in the class have to guess what the picture is depicting. To make it more competitive, you can split the board into two and have two teams guessing simultaneously. The first team to guess their word scores the points.
Make it more challenging for higher levels by adding another aspect to the words/phrases they need to draw e.g. add adjectives (an angry tiger), or ask them to depict an idiom/phrasal verb that has been practised in class.