Keep ‘Em Moving – Summary of Teresa Monika Andrea Gel’s TESOL 2015 Session

“Physical activity helps learners attend to a task.”
—Teresa Monika Andrea Gel

The ESL Library team recently returned from the TESOL 2015 convention in Toronto, Canada. We had a fantastic time! We really enjoyed meeting old and new subscribers, catching up with colleagues, enjoying a great Canadian city, and especially attending some wonderful PD sessions. I thought I’d share a summary of one of those sessions on our blog so that many teachers can benefit from the great activities I learned about.

Teresa Monika Andrea Gel, assisted by Elena Ivette Armas Esqueda, gave a great presentation about how movement can be incorporated into teaching English to learners of all levels and ages. Teresa noted that this doesn’t involve a lot of extra planning, which is great news for Ts! Benefits of using physical activity within a lesson include:

  • more focus on the task
  • less distraction
  • less boredom and fatigue

Here is a summary of the activities that were demonstrated in the session. I was pleased to see some old favorites mentioned along with some new activities that I can’t wait to try!


Get students up and moving by having them ask all their classmates questions from a planned list of questions. This works just as well for unplanned questions, and is a great way to form pairs or groups (e.g., Find someone who is wearing the same color as you).

ESL Library often includes a premade Find Someone Who activity in our lessons. Almost all the lessons in our Holidays & Events section contain this fun task!


Join a piece of string with two popsicle sticks. Each team member holds onto a stick and has a conversation (have one or both students talk). Team members should slowly wind up the string while the conversation is flowing. Unwind it when fillers or pauses are used. Teresa had a great name for this activity: Get reeled in while you flap your yap.

Find some conversation ideas for intermediate–advanced students in our Discussion Starters section.


Have the class stand up and form two lines across from each other. Give them a topic and have pairs talk for a set time. When the time is up, one line will move down one space, and the new pairs can talk again. Repeat until people get back to their original pairs.

Higher-level learners might enjoy discussing and debating the topics from our Mini-Debates section.


Use this activity to review vocabulary. Put students into teams of three or four, and write a list of categories on the board (e.g., names, places, food, animals, etc.). Have someone yell out a letter of the alphabet, and all groups must fill in the chart (either orally, on paper, or on the board) with words that begin with that letter (e.g., R: Ryan, Russia, Roast beef, Rabbit). The first group to finish yells, “Stop the bus!” Repeat with a new letter.

Our Flashcards section can help you come up with a variety of categories.


This activity works well for vocabulary or grammar review. Bring a top or wind-up toy to class. Once it’s activated, students (in pairs or groups) must mention as many items of the category that they can (e.g., colors, clothes, phrasal verbs, idioms, irregular verbs, TOEFL skills, etc.). Whoever can list the most words wins!

Find lots of ideas for categories in our Flashcards, Grammar Practice Worksheets, and Everyday Idioms sections.


Use this fun activity for intonation and speaking practice. Write a list of speaking contexts on the board (e.g., to a friend, to a neighbor, to a baby, to someone who was doing something they shouldn’t, etc.). Now give a word or phrase (e.g., Hello, What are you doing, etc.) and have students say the same word/phrase in each context. Notice how the intonation is quite different depending on the situation!

Try reading out the conversations in our Everyday Dialogues section with different emotions: anger, sarcasm, enthusiasm, etc.


Practice a variety of skills (grammar, vocabulary, speaking, etc.) with this activity. Assign one task to each dice number. One option is to use the same task and vary the number (e.g., 1 – Name 1 irregular verb, 2 – Name 2 irregular verbs, 3 – Name 3…etc.). The other option is to vary the tasks (e.g., 1 – Describe your favourite place, 2 – Tell us about an embarrassing experience, etc.). Put students in groups, and have them take turns rolling the dice and completing the corresponding task. You can also use dice to form groups (anyone who rolled a 1 in one group, anyone who rolled a 2 in another group, etc.).

Some of our lessons include this activity. For example, you can find this premade activity in Detective Series 1, Vocabulary Review 1–3, page 2.


Use this activity for vocabulary or grammar review. Put students into two teams. Make two lists on the board (using pictures, word prompts, etc.), but mix up the order. For example, you could have a list of pronouns (I, You, He, She, etc.) in one column and the same list (in a different order) in the other column. When you say, “Go!”, one member from each team must race to the board and write down any one of the simple present Be verb (am, are, is, etc.) from their column. The student then races back to hand off the chalk/marker to the next person, who must run back to the board and fill in another word. The team who completes the list first wins!

Check out ESL Library’s 1000+ flashcards. These images would work well in a board race! Cut up two identical sets, mix up the order, and tape them to the board. Students must write the corresponding vocabulary word next to the image. Spelling counts!

Teresa and Elena concluded their presentation with some wise words:
“Motivation is challenging; movement helps.”

I hope you find these activities as inspiring as I did!


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