• Anita Demitroff

Revising Clothes Vocabulary Again? Great Ideas With More Dash Than Cash!



The lockdown and online classes opened a whole world of possibilities. Learners could show their favourite objects, get out their musical instruments or even cook. One unexpected turn was that children started to participate more in domestic tasks, helping their families with laundry, gardening and cleaning. This unexpected development has inspired some of the games presented here. With these fun and easy activities, we can boost life skills and add a physical dimension to our classes.

One of the most common topics in English is clothing. Teachers are constantly on the lookout for new ideas to use in their classes.


Here is a challenge that works with children as young as five and as old as Mid-Primary. Tie a washing line from one chair to the next. Divide the class into teams and then give the player in each round two clothes pegs and a tee-shirt.


Before the contestants in each round stand up, the whole class has to sing (to the tune of "London Bridge is Falling Down"): Put the T-shirt on the line, on the line, on the line. Put the T-shirt on the line and come back to your chair. Whoever doesn't doesn't sing is disqualified from playing. The teacher gives the ready-steady-go! and contestants stand up and run to the line, pinning their tee-shirts on as fast as possible, before running back to their seats.


This contest often levels the playing field, as they say in British sports. That is, children who might not do so well in terms of speed or confidence may have greater fine motor skills. They can pin the article of clothing onto the line faster and better. The second part of the round is to then to sing: Take the T-shirt off the line, off the line, off the line. Take the T-shirt off the line and come back to your chair.


Along similar lines is a race in which children have to fold clothes. A Total Physical Response activity can be for the children to explain how the teacher can fold a T-shirt. Of course, we say to fold the arms instead of the sleeves. To foster group collaboration, you can teach children how to fold larger items, like sheets. Sheets can also be used like the parachutes from Physical Education, but these activities belong to another blog post!


Now that we are talking about using clothing in novel ways, we can think about socks: clean ones of course. We used to make homemade beanbags from widowed socks and lentils, but have since reached the conclusion that pairs of socks alone can work in a similar way. They are softer and less bouncy than balls for activities that involve catching and answering a question or adding to a list of vocabulary, for example. And one of our favourite collaborative activities is to have two lines throw the socks to their partners to ensure that EVERYONE catches what has been thrown to them.


This sounds like an easy endeavour, but the competitive nature of some pupils means they can’t resist throwing over their partners' heads. The way to build a competitive edge into this is by having classes or groups competing with other classes or groups. Who can achieve the objective of not dropping the ball for five throws? To increase the degree of challenge, we can use our other hand so that left-handed children throw and catch with their right hand and vice-versa.

Here is an inclusive activity, in the sense that wheelchair-bound children can participate easily in a series of personal challenges that involve socks. One idea is to throw a pair in the air and see how many times we can clap: once, twice, or three or four times. Another is to put them on our heads, shoulders and feet and move around. Finally, we put them on our heads and then try to drop our heads down so that we catch it with our hands clasped in front of or (more of a challenge) behind our torso.

A collaborative task that has children using sheets and socks is to try passing a pair of socks or soft toy from one group holding a sheet in a circle to another. This entails following instructions and working in unison. Everyone, go down. Like this (squatting or crouching). Hold it like this (grabbing the sheet with each hand). Are you ready? Stand up and pass the socks! Look! It's landed on the other sheet! We did it! We did it! Oh no! It fell on the floor! Let's have another go!


Finally, an idea from PE that doesn't involve realia is to represent an item of clothing with an action as part of a circuit. Start by, say, going from a standing position with our arms at our sides and the jumping up to change position: our arms stretch out to our sides. And we shout out “T-shirt!” The next move starts the same way (body straight, arms at our sides), but we then jump up and stretch out our arms to the sides, but also open our legs. “Dress”. Trousers can be kicking out one leg and then another leg. For shoes, we can stomp our feet. The circuit can have pictures of the different words so that children are moving around repeating the actions and shouting out the items.


Physicality and realia always make a winning combination. For these activities, all we is to bring in what's at home, but we can make a big splash in our next lesson on clothes. At the same time, we foster life skills, collaboration and dexterity.


By Ana Demitroff


Bio: Ana has been in the classroom longer than she cares to admit, but she still gets a kick from the experience and continues to learn from her colleagues and students at the You First Language Centre.