ESL students can benefit from participating in physical activities that illustrate the grammar and vocabulary of language tasks. James Asher, an educator and researcher, called these activities Total Physical Response. Linking a word or grammatical concept to a physical action can strengthen the memory and learning during language tasks. ESL pantomime games can offer an accessible way to coordinate action with language learning.
Pantomime Verbs and Tenses
Miming English verbs and tenses aids in language acquisition. Language learners can adjust to verbs at their level. Beginning students can focus on forms of the "Be" verb and mime various professions beginning with the phrase "I am a __" and other language learners reply "She is a firefighter" or "He is a teacher." Students can also mime feelings and emotions for other language learners to identify, such as "She is happy" or "He is tired." Intermediate and advanced students can adapt mimes for grammar such as "going swimming" or "going bowling." Other applications involve progressive and perfect tenses.
Adverbs can cause difficulty for ESL students. When they engage in mime, language learners gain understanding and facility with adverbs. One method is to write a variety of adverbs on slips of paper folded for students to select. Give a series of verbs that the language learners are studying. Using the verb "walk," the student may select the adverb "slowly." As the student uses mime to demonstrate walking slowly, the other students identify the action. The answers can be words "slowly" or phrases "walking slowly," all the way to complete sentences, "She is walking slowly." For variation, ask students to write the adverb, phrase or sentence on the board, overhead projector or document camera.
Pantomime Vocabulary Words
Learning and reviewing vocabulary and sight words can become accessible through ESL pantomime games. New language learners focus on common words such as book, pen, house and other everyday terms. Pantomime gives the ESL students an opportunity to apply their new vocabulary to their peers' pantomimes. Students can demonstrate reading a book, with the audience calling out "book." This exercise adapts to intermediate language learners as they encounter more challenging vocabulary from short readings about professions, lifestyles and recreation. Advanced language learners can pantomime emotions and actions from novels and films used in class.
The pantomime games can include telling familiar or new stories through actions. Working alone, in pairs or groups, beginning and intermediate language learners select a story from a class reading text or book. They might also choose to mime the actions from library books. The other groups call out or write the actions, with the goal being to guess the name of the story in the pantomime. Advanced ESL learners may attempt to pantomime stories that the other learners are not familiar with, so the audience discovers the characters, plot and theme of a story through the mime game.