TPR games for online lessons

Through my professional path, I have had lots of opportunities to teach students whose native language I do not speak.  Working with Chinese students brought me some obstacles which I could overcome due to TPR games. 

What is TPR? 

It stands for  Total Physical Response and was developed by Dr James J Asher. If we make a detailed analysis of this method, we will find out that it is based on the way we learn our native language. We have probably noticed how parents speak with their children to make them understand their speech — they use appropriate gestures to give instructions to their kids. And children, in their turn, physically respond to them doing what their parents have told. The same method teachers apply to foreign language learning and use it not only with kids but also with adults whose L1 they do not know. Taking into account the significant role of TPR in second language teaching, here we will introduce effective TPR games for your online lessons with kids.

Vocabulary work

Though in an online classroom we have a limited space to move around, it is still possible to use TPR for teaching new vocabulary. This works well especially with introducing and practising parts of the body, action verbs and sports. Of course, while presenting new vocabulary we can use flashcards, but showing everything on you is sometimes more memorable, effective and fun for kids. After you have introduced the words, you can ask your students to follow your instructions.


  • Where is your head?
  • Show me your hands.
  • Sit down!
  • Stand up!
  • Jump

You would ask me: “How can we or our students do these actions if we usually see only upper parts of the body?” I assure you that is possible. All you need is to place the laptop far from you so that you are fully seen on the screen. The student should do the same. 


This game is similar to the previous one. However, here the teacher makes deliberate confusions. For example, the teacher says ‘eye’ but points to the fingers. Students’ task is to indicate to the real thing the instructor has said.  The same game will work with action verbs and even fruit and vegetables. 


This is perfect for practising action verbs and sports. When you have introduced words to your students, divide your classroom into two teams and send each of them corresponding flashcards. Then one student must pantomime the actions on the cards so that his/her team can guess the word. The winner is the team that gives more correct answers than the other. If you are working with individuals, you can play it in pairs. First, you show the action and your student guesses, then he/she pantomimes and you are to guess. 

The Opposites

This game is played in pairs. The first player (it can be the teacher) says a word and the second one says the opposite and shows or pantomimes it. For example: wake up — sleep, smile — cry, jump — run, close the book — open the book. 


Songs provide not only a good mood and atmosphere in the classroom, but can also be a great tool for practising vocabulary. Here action songs are amazing. They get students to feel the rhythm,  sing and do the actions. Due to action songs, your kids will boost their listening and pronunciation skills, enrich their vocabulary and have some fun. Here are some videos that may come in handy.

Clap your hands, The singing walrus: Here children practise body parts and some actions, such as eyes, hands, feet, leg, blink, clap, stomp, wiggle, sing, dance in English. 

Action Verbs song: The song will help your kids to learn verbs such as jump, waddle, walk, dance, run, etc. 

Simon says

The teacher says: “Simon says: “Stand up”. The student must carry out only the actions before which the teacher says “Simon says”. For example, if the teacher says “Stand up”, the student must not react. But when he/she says “Simon says, stand up”, the learner must immediately stand up. 

Conducting these games at your online classes will create a fun and positive atmosphere and help your students boost their listening, speaking and pronunciation skills. 

Let us know in the comments below what TPR games you use in your online classes.

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