English Teacher Article A well-balanced use of stand-up and sit-down activities in a kids' EFL Class

Summary: Here are some pointers to help you judge whether you have got the right balance of sit down and moving around activities in your classes, and then some tips on how to think about making changes.

By: |Audience: Teachers|Category: Teaching English


A good balance of stand-up and sit-down activities in a kids’ EFL class

The one overwhelming difference between teaching kids and teaching adults is that the younger the children are the more they need to move around in class, both to keep up their levels of concentration and to help them learn by getting physically involved. Teachers therefore need to know a stack of fun games where students mime, run, touch things etc. Once they have gained the ability to use such games, though, teachers often lose sight of the fact that the activities were developed not just because they were fun but mainly in order to help kids learn better. They might also lose sight of that fact that sometimes the best kind of learning can be done sitting down quietly just like adults. Here are some pointers to help you judge whether you have got the right balance of sit down and moving around activities in your classes, and then some tips on how to think about making changes.

Possible signs that you are using too many sit-down activities with kids

  1. The children become more and more restless during the class

  2. You have to discipline the kids more and more as the class goes on

  3. The children become less and less receptive to new language as the class goes on

  4. The amount of noise increases over the length of the class

  5. The children become less and less responsive as the class goes on, e.g. stop responding to requests to copy movements (e.g. animal mimes or finger songs) while they are sitting down

  6. There are more and more jokes and other silliness as the class goes on

  7. The children starting overreacting to some of your cues, e.g. shouting extremely loudly during drilling

  8. The main reason for discipline problems in your classes is the kids having too much energy

  9. The only reaction you know to students getting restless is to discipline them more

  10. The periods of attention and good behaviour after you discipline the kids or start a new activity become shorter and shorter as the class goes on

  11. You have done songs, storybooks, flashcards and realia but no standing up or moving around the room

  12. The only reason you don’t use stand up and move around action songs like Hokey Cokey or Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush is that you are scared of losing control or wasting time as they get up out of their seats and into the right position

  13. The only reason you don’t get students standing up and moving is that you don’t think there is room in the classroom

  14. The only reason you don’t get students standing up and moving is that you are scared of disturbing neighbouring classes

  15. The only reason you don’t get students standing up and moving is that the students could break something

  16. When you do actions sitting down (e.g. bobbing up and down with two hands on your head for ears for “rabbit”), the children naturally move to stand up and do it but you usually stop them

  17. There is no variation in energy levels in your lesson plan

  18. There are two or even three quiet sit down activities in a row without something more lively and active to break them up

  19. Most classes with under- tens pass without the students standing up and moving around

  20. Most classes with under-sixes only have one standing up activity

  21. The only standing up activity in every class is the warmer at the beginning of the lesson

  22. You convert most standing up game ideas you read in the teachers’ book or in teaching magazines into sit down games

  23. The only reason you reject a good game idea you find on the internet or in a teacher’s resource book is because it involves standing up and moving around

  24. The more studious students win all the games and the more physically active ones never have a chance to win

  25. The more physically active kids are learning much less than the more studious one

  26. You have the same number of stand up and move around activities in your younger kids’ classes as in your older kids’ ones

  27. The more physically active kids don’t like English class or say they are bored

  28. The more physically active kids often get into trouble in your classes

  29. You have difficulty making a clear transition between sit down activities

  30. Students become overexcited every time there is a physical activity because they do them so rarely

  31. You had problems the first time you used a stand up and move around activity and so you have never tried one again

  32. Your students are looking longingly towards the wall of the neighbouring classroom, from where sounds of running around and other merriment are coming

  33. Students go running out of the classroom shouting with a burst of pent up energy at the end of your class

Possible signs that you aren’t using enough sit-down activities with kids

  1. The kids often do two or three stand up and move around activities in a row without a sit down activity between

  2. You have tackled the same language point with several stand up and move around activities (over several classes or all in the same class) without trying a sit down activity on that point

  3. You do so many more stand up than sit down games that you are running out of ideas for stand up games

  4. Students who prefer more intellectual, mathematical, logical etc activities rarely win the games

  5. Students who prefer more intellectual, mathematical, logical etc activities are progressing more slowly in English than in their other classes

  6. Students who prefer more intellectual, mathematical, logical etc activities are progressing more slowly in English than the more physically active students

  7. You reject some game ideas just because they are done sitting down or in silence

  8. The kids often become overexcited

  9. The kids often become physically tired

  10. You have difficulty making a clear transition between two stand up and move around activities

  11. You rarely use photocopiable activities

  12. You rarely do craftwork (colouring, using scissors, gluing etc)

  13. You rarely do project work (making posters, making picture dictionaries etc)

  14. You are missing a chance to combine English development with development of other skills they need in school like learning to use scissors

  15. The English classroom has far fewer posters and other student work on the walls than other classrooms because students aren’t producing them in your class

  16. Students bring materials like picture dictionaries and colouring pencils to class but rarely have a chance to use them

  17. Other teachers or students complain about the noise coming from your classroom

  18. Other teachers complain that your students are tired or overexcited when they come to their next class

  19. Students become very restless during tests because they are not used to sitting down and being still in English class

  20. You have to interrupt your activities to let students cool down or drink water

  21. Your students go into shock when they join Junior High School English classes next year and have to spend the whole class sitting down

Other possible signs that you haven’t got the balance of stand-up and sit-down activities right

  1. Most classes are not a mix of the two

  2. You don’t vary the number of each type of activity depending on the age of the students

  3. You don’t vary the number of each type of activity depending on how physically tired or restless the students are on the day

  4. You don’t vary the number of each type of activity depending on what the students have been doing before your class (e.g. sports or a sit down test)

  5. You ignore pointers on how high energy games are when you read about them

Ways of making sure you use the right number of sit-down activities

  1. Grade all your classes from the class that usually needs most stand up and move around activities to the class that would benefit most from and appreciate more sit down activities

  2. Write an energy level next to each of the activities you have planned from your class from 10 points (running around and screaming) to 1 point (suitable for calming down overexcited or naughty kids). You can also try this with all activities you read in the teacher’s book and elsewhere.

  3. Count up the number of sit down quiet activities and stand up moving around activities in your lesson plan and see if you think you have the right percentage of each for each class. You can also do the same thing for percentage of class time.

  4. Check that the active stand up stages are scattered throughout the lesson, and are put in at places where students are likely to respond well to them.

  5. Plan sit down and stand up variations of as many activities on your lesson plan as you can, so you can respond to their mood and energy levels on the day

  6. Add other optional stand up and sit down activities to use only if the students don’t respond well to plan A due to energy levels etc.

  7. Find out what classes students will have before and after yours and plan your lessons accordingly

  8. Observe other people’s lessons or watch videos of lessons and judge them on the use of stand up and sit down activities

  9. Brainstorm all the things that are stopping you using more stand up or sit down activities (e.g. lack of room to move around or students not using pencils well yet) and then brainstorm solutions to each one that does not involve abandoning sit down or stand up activities   

Copyright © 2011

Written by Alex Case for UsingEnglish.com