Sentence Patterns and Gestures: The Hula Hoop Game

This game was something I kind of made up on the spot when I had 10 minutes or so left in one of my classes. I quickly scanned the room I was in and spotted a huge pile of hula hoops. “DING!” The lightbulb in my brain went off and I suddenly had a new game that I could use in several of my other classes to practice vocabulary, sentence patterns, and gestures associated with vocabulary.

This game can be played with almost any vocabulary/gestures/sentence patterns, but, for the sake of simplicity, let’s use family members and the sentence pattern “Who’s this?” –> “It’s my brother/sister/mother/father/grandma, grandpa.”

What you’ll need: hula hoops (lots and lots of hula hoops – preferably one for every 2-3 students, depending on the size of the hula hoops and of your students), flashcards for the vocabulary you’re teaching (in this case, family members – you can find a set of family member flashcards here), and students (more than 4 would be good). As a side note, this game is best played in a larger room, so keep that in mind.

Step 1: Use your family members flashcards to teach vocabulary words to the students. Do repetition drills, touch games, or whatever else helps them retain those words!

Step 2: Teach students gestures for each word. I usually hug myself for mother (because she hugs you), I pat myself on the head for father (because he encourages you and may pat you on the head), I mime a short person for sister (because in my mind, I associate the flashcard I have with a little sister), I put my hands on my hips in a confident stance for brother (because brothers tend to be boisterous/confident), I mime a person walking with a cane to the right for grandma (because older people often walk with canes), and I mime a person walking with a cane to the left for grandpa (because I couldn’t think of a more original gesture).

Step 3: Teach the students the following question and response: “Who’s this?” –> “This is my mother/father/sister/brother/grandma/grandpa.” Have them make gestures for the different vocabulary words they respond with.

Step 4: Spread your hula hoops around the room. Make a big show of it so that you intrigue students and get them excited.

Step 5: Put 1-3 students in each hula hoop (depending on the size and number of hula hoops you have). Make sure to reserve one hula hoop for yourself so you can demonstrate the game.

Step 6: Walk around the hula hoops while chanting: “Walk” over and over again. Then yell out a vocabulary word and hold up its flashcard. Make a big production of running back to your hula hoop. Once in the hula hoop, say: “This is my ____.” and mime the associated gesture. That’s the idea of the game: students walk around the hula hoops until you yell out a vocabulary word. When you do, they have to scramble to get into a hula hoop. They then have to make the vocabulary word that you yelled out’s gesture, while simultaneously using it in the learned sentence pattern.

Step 7: Play a practice round to see if students understand. Do the first few sentence patterns and gestures with them, so that they can get the flow of the game. Once they get it, allow them to say the sentence patterns and do the gestures without your help.

Step 8: Play the game and have fun!



4 thoughts on “Sentence Patterns and Gestures: The Hula Hoop Game

    1. cocolicot

      Me too, Bonsai!

      When I was in a university education class, one of my professors was giving a lecture on engaging students and he said: “If you’re bored while teaching, then I guarantee you your students were bored and stopped listening 5-10 minutes ago.”

      That has always stuck with me, so now that I’m teaching on my own, I try to have as much fun as possible with my kids.

      Thanks for the comment! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Pingback: Teaching Transportation: A Cool Craft Idea – My EFL experience

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