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Essential Resources believes that a love of lifelong learning will help build an equable and kind world.

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How to keep young students active and engaged while learning: Part 1

Jul 1, 2016 | Guest Post

I teach children aged between 5-and-a-half and seven-and-a-half years old. During the years I have developed different activities I use in the classroom to keep the children engaged and motivated during the day while learning and having fun.

Here are three of them…

1. Physical activity after sitting on the mat

  • I ask the children to stand in front of me.
  • I say: “Shake your hands, shake your hands and jump up and down, shake your hands, jump up and down, and wiggle your body, shake your hands, jump up and down, wiggle your body and make a funny face …”
  • Carry on for as long as the children can do it – they usually break down with laughter.

2. Learning activity that helps basic fact learning and simple catching and throwing skills!

  • The children stand on their chair.
  • I throw a big ball to one child and call out an equation, e.g. 4+4= (it can be as hard or as easy depending on the child’s ability).
  • The child catches the ball and responds with the correct answer.
  • The child then throws the ball to another child and sits down.
  • Carry on until all the children are sitting on their chairs.

3. Reflection

  • I ask the children to stand facing a buddy and they act out exactly what the other person is doing.
  • I say: “You are getting ready for school, you are looking in the mirror and are brushing your teeth, pick up the toothbrush, brush your teeth, pick up the water glass gurgle some water, spit it out, etc.”
  • “Combing your hair, putting socks on, shoes on …”.
  • Each instruction is given separately up to sitting on the dining table, pouring milk into your bowl, picking up spoon, or picking up your bag and saying good bye to mum.


  • Two children stand facing each other
  • They make up an activity to mime
  • They mime it out with one person copying the other exactly
  • When they are ready they can with the class
  • The other children have to guess what the pair is miming.

This is a good activity for topic time. For example, at the moment my class is learning about “Community Helpers”, the children choose a job in the community they know about and they mime it or act it out. They have to be mindful of how they present their mime so that the rest of the class can guess correctly. Here they are using prior knowledge, thinking skills as well as cooperative and participating skills.

Peggy Bruce is a primary school teacher, specialising in teaching children who are learning English as speakers of other languages. She enjoys writing and has developed many of her own classroom reading and writing resources. 

Peggy is the author of the series The Language Contract which is available in Australia, New Zealand and the rest of the world.
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