Get ’em moving!

I heard once, “if their bum is numb, so is their brain”.  I don’t know who said it or when (it was a loooooong time ago) but it stuck with me. (My husband just suggested  a new saying “if their bum is numb, their brain is dumb” Same idea, anyway.) Here are some of my favorite ways to move them around and wake them up, while staying in the Target Language!

Muévete si…. Move if…

It’s easy and requires no prep at all. (Score!)  I usually use this between activities to pep them up.  Teacher says Move if you have two sisters….five, four, three, two, one or Move if you’re really tired right now….five, four, three, two, one  or Move if you love eating In n Out hamburgers…five, four, three, two, one. You get the picture… Students listen to the statement, and move to an empty chair if it applies to them. Remember to speak slowly and use words they know. I count down from five to one pretty quickly just to add to the general sense of panic and pandemonium. It’s more fun that way. Ba ha ha ha!

Here’s a post about it with a video, if you’d like to see it in action!

Animal Partners

Sometimes I just want to move them around and keep moving with my lesson, so I’ll tell them to take out their Animal Partner Sheet and sit with their kangaroo buddy. Huh? What? Kangaroo buddy? It gets everyone out of their seat, mixes them up, and then we continue with my plan.

Number Duel:  Students pair up and stand back to back. Both choose a number between 1-5 and hold up that number. They count to three and face each other, showing the other one the number they’re holding up. Then they race each other to add both numbers and say it in Spanish. (So if one student is holding up 2 fingers, and the partner holds up five fingers, they race to say siete). Then they turn around and play again. After they get good at it, I change it tens. So, each finger is worth ten instead of one (so 3 fingers is 30). After they get good at tens, then we play by hundreds (5 fingers is 500). This one is a fun and easy break between activities, or great to fill in the last few minutes before the bell rings.

Chants, songs and pattycakes

5 elefantitos

I teach my students a LOT of songs. It’s funny because I have a really awful voice. Really, really bad. Actually, I didn’t know that my colleagues knew that I had such a bad voice (because I only sing in front of my students) until just recently. One of my dear teacher friends commented that she can tell which of her students had my class the year before because they sing off key. You guys: my students sing off key because I teach them songs off key. I can’t help it. It sounds good in my head, honest.  When my kids start to get drowsy, my first line of defense is to make them stand and sing.  Here are a few of our favorites; I’ve given you the lyrics to project and videos so you can see the motions. (And also because secretly I am hoping  become a YouTube singing sensation. Just like Justin Bieber.  Well, not just like Justin, but you know). And just to be clear, I didn’t make up any of these!

This one is challenging and my high schoolers especially love it. The Amazing and Talented Rita Barrett taught me this one years ago and it’s just so much fun!

Con el ritmo de los pies: Lyrics & Video

Cinco elefantitos: Lyrics & Video (This one is kind of morbid, and they love it!)

Remember “Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?”  This is the Spanish equivalent.

¿Quién robó pan en la casa de San Juan? Lyrics & Video

I can’t remember where I learned this one; I’ve been teaching it since the dawn of time.

Izquierda, Derecha: Lyrics & Video

It always surprises me how much my high schoolers get into doing juegos de manos, even the boys! I don’t have any videos of my students doing these,  but these are the ones I teach my kiddos throughout the year. It works wonders to wake them up, but I avoid these during flu season….all the hand slapping germ swapping….gross….

Las vocales: Lyrics & Video

Chocolate: Lyrics & Videos

Marinero que se fue a la mar: Lyrics & Video

Dos policías: Lyrics & Videos

And the great part about teaching a new palmada, it’s just another opportunity to give them input. Here’s a video of me teaching “Dos policías” to my Spanish 4s. I find it’s helpful to have everyone be my partner as I teach it the first time, then they try it with their partner. Here’s what I mean:

Another fun thing with the patty cake chants, there’s so many variations you can do:

  • Start super slow and get faster and faster with each verse
  • Start loud and get quieter and quieter down to a whisper with each verse
  • Start with giant exaggerated hand motions and get smaller and smaller until they’re only using their pointer fingers
  • Start in pairs, then combine pairs to make groups of 4 and have them figure out how to make it work. The combine 2 groups of 4 to make a group of 8 and so on.
  • Elimination round: When a partner messes up, they are eliminated and sit down. The student who didn’t mess up finds a new partner for each round until we get to the championships.
  • and a zillion other fun things that will come to you on the spot!


  1. The number duel was a HUGE hit with my middle school students today! There was so much joy and laughter in the room! Thank you for sharing these great activities!


  2. I just came across your website and LOVE all that you have to share. Thank you for taking the time to compile everything, explain, add photos and in general provide great ideas. Gracias!


  3. […] Move them around! This is the most important thing to think about when you’re teaching on a block: if their bum is numb so is their brain!  My rule is that students need to stand and do something active every 10-15 minutes. That doesn’t mean after every activity…sometimes in the middle of the activity they  need a quick stand up, partner up, do something and then back to business. Here are my favorite ways to get them moving around while staying in Spanish.  […]


  4. I love these! Thanks so much for posting! Can’t wait to share them with my high schoolers (including football players). Haha, they’re going to love them!


  5. I am not sure what phrase I would use for German class. Beweg dich? = move yourself Wechselt die Plaetze? = Switch seats? Also my new rooms is very small and it might lead to injuries. I wonder if this game could be played just saying “get up” ? maybe?


    • That would work, “stand up if…” but it might not be as fun as the mad dash and impending danger…:)


  6. I’m a German teacher. These “Juegos de Manos” are called “Klatschspiele” or “Handklatschspiele” in case any other DeutschlehrerInnen want to search some on Youtube.


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