5 fantastically fun ideas for the primary classroom

With the Pearson Teacher Training Department for Spain and Portugal having delivered a large number of sessions around primary learners so far this year (and with many more to come!), the aim of this week’s post is to share five of the practical ideas we’ve been looking at. These activities have fun and engagement at their heart, as well as including the language practice our students need to make progress.

1) Sing a welcome song

Songs are a great way to learn English and thankfully for us, most primary-aged pupils are only too happy to sing. We often use songs as a way to contextualise a grammar point or some vocabulary – a catchy song will help this stick. But what about beginning our lessons with a welcome song? This is a great way to set a positive climate for learning and to calm and focus our students. Here is an example of a welcome song:

In the last part of the song we say hello to our pupils one by one, looking them in the eye, and they say hello back to us. This way we make a personal connection with each of our pupils. Singing a welcome song can also be seen as an alternative to calling the register.

Being a good singer is by no means a prerequisite on the part of the teacher – young children aren’t bothered! The same goes for including instruments of course. 

Here are the words to the song and the guitar chords in case anyone would like to give it a try:

Hello everybody, hello everyone
Welcome to the English class
Welcome girls and boys
Welcome to the English class
Welcome boys and girls
We’re going to speak, we’re going to sing, we’re going to play and we’re going to learn
We’re going to have a great time
In our English class
We’re going to have a great time. WHERE?
In our English class
Hello Miguel, hello Ana, hello Javi, hello Nora…

Chords: C, Am, F, G


2) Include real communication from the start

We’re often told to make our lessons ‘communicative’, though this can sometimes seem a challenge with learners who don’t have much language at their disposal. But it can be done with the right support. Here is an example of a great communicative activity that can be used in the first or second year of primary. 

Context: Our learners have covered the colours and classroom objects.


Put learners into groups of four.

Learners are given a piece of A4 paper and fold it twice, creating four boxes (modelled by the teacher).

Learners choose four items from the vocabulary they have been working on (see picture) and draw them in their four boxes. Then they colour them in.

Learners cut out their four cards and put the group’s cards together (there will be 16). They are shuffled and dealt back out to the group members.

The game

The aim of the game is for each learner to get their four cards back and they do this by taking turns to ask questions of the other pupils in the group. This is the sort of language they’ll need:

Do you have a/an …(black pencil)…?

Yes, I do / No, I don’t

Can I have it back please?

Yes, here you are/ No, it’s mine!

Notes on the activity

Model, model, model! We can drill the language, but for young learners to understand the game, they’ll need to see it modelled – so we can play it with three pupils with the rest of the class watching.

The game is communicative – there is a real reason for the pupils to speak (they want to get their cards back) and offers the chance for lots of practice of key vocabulary and structures.

Alternatives: change the number of items to two (easier) or six (harder), change the number of people in the group (at least three!), perform the activity as a whole class mingle (takes longer), allow pupils to write down their items (some may find it hard to remember).

It’s also worth noting that we can play a game like this with lots of different vocabulary sets.


3) Form groups with a miming mingle

We’ll often need to put our students into groups – sometimes we’ll want to organise those groups ourselves and sometimes we might leave it to chance. Here’s a fun way of getting our learners into groups using mime (and noises! But no words).

Let’s say we have twenty-four pupils and we want six groups of four. We need 24 little pieces of paper / post-it notes.

We need a vocabulary set. Animals, for instance. We choose six animals (eg. dog, cat, pig, chicken, sheep, horse). We write one of the animals on four of the pieces of paper and put them in the hat. Then we repeat for the other animals.

Each pupil draws out a piece of paper with an animal on. They have to find the other three pupils with the same animal. The only thing they can do is to impersonate the animal with actions and noises. Let the fun commence!

Notes on the activity

We could use any vocabulary that can be mimed for this activity (daily routine, sports, hobbies etc) and if we’d like to decide on who is in each group, we just distribute the papers ourselves.


4) Play hopscotch for listening, speaking and reading.

How many of us played hopscotch in the playground when we were at school? Arguably traditional playground games aren’t as popular as they used to be, but let’s bring this one back to life for the classroom!

Have a look at the picture where you can see the language we have been working on. This has been printed on A3 paper and laminated (most schools have laminating machines – they’re very useful) and laid out on the floor.


We’ve drilled our language with actions, contextualised it in a song (see picture below) and practiced it. Now our pupils are going to produce it in whole sentences.




As an example, the teacher reads out a sentence ‘I can swim, but I can’t do cartwheels’, then hops and jumps onto the appropriate cards, saying what is on each one in turn.

Then the teacher reads out another sentence. Pupil A  needs to hop and jump onto the appropriate cards, again reading out what is on each one in turn.

Then pupil A reads out a sentence. Pupil B hops and jumps onto the appropriate cards, reading them out before reading another sentence which pupil C needs to reproduce etc.

Notes on the activity

This activity involves speaking clearly, listening carefully and reading. Pupils enjoy the movement and it is also easy for us to spot potential problems (such as pupils not being able to pronounce ‘can and ‘can’t’ clearly or not being able to hear the difference between the two).

There are more activities we can do with these cards, such as distributing cards among pupils, who need to get in order and read out what is on their card to form a sentence.


5) ‘Emotional’ role plays (credit: Mariela Collado)

This is a way to add fun to any role play, but will involve the pupils having covered the language (or similar) in the pictures below

Our role play:



What are your hobbies?

I like… And you?

I like…

Great. Bye!


Firstly, we can chant the role play with the two halves of the class speaking to each other (we will need to add an activity in the blanks).

Then, the teacher assigns an emotion to each half of the class and they have to speak in a way that represents that feeling. This can be a lot of fun!

Pupils can practice guessing each other’ emotions in pairs before we do a whole class mingle:

We distribute post-its to our pupils, each with a feeling written on (or we get pupils to choose one themselves and write it down). Pupils find someone to perform the role play with, speaking with the feeling on their card. Then pupils need to guess how each other is feeling. Once they’ve got it right, they swap post-its and find someone else to talk to.

Notes on the activity

Again, model, model, model! Doing the practice with the two halves of the class is easy to manage, but the guessing and swapping post-its will need modelling.


So there you have it! Five fun activities for the primary classroom. Why not give them a try?

*Resources taken from Team Up! And Poptropica English Islands.


You might also be interested in ….

How to gamify your primary classroom: practical ideas 

6 easy word games for the English language classroom

10 great sites with free games for practising English

What if homework was playing a video game?

Gamification and stickers


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