My daughter, who isn’t really into sports, recently told me that she only likes gym class when they get to play sports that their teacher invents, such as “benchball”. She was surprised to hear that basketball was created by a gym teacher, and that it used to be played with peach baskets. My son loves anything to do with sports, but right now he’s obsessed with a running race challenge he invented at school. “You get to make up a new name for yourself every day, and every day is a new season. You have to win five races in a row before you’re crowned the champion!”
The idea of inventing anything (and making up the rules) is something kids get really excited about. This is why so many kids love obstacle courses! The end of the school year is a great time to have play days with obstacle courses. You can celebrate all of the obstacles that your students have overcome! Obstacle courses are useful for language learners because they can review vocabulary related to sports equipment and actions. They can also practice giving, writing, and listening to instructions.
Whether you are a teacher or a parent, here is an Obstacle Course Activity to try with your young English learners :
First, teach the word “obstacle course” and consider how it relates to language learning:
How is learning a language like going through an obstacle course?
- It’s mentally challenging.
- You have to figure out how it works.
- You can’t move too quickly.
Next, talk about some of the specific obstacles language learners face:
What are the difficult parts (obstacles) in learning a language?
- remembering new words
- learning how to use different tenses
- understanding instructions
- pronouncing names
Review Sports Vocabulary: Nouns
Now, challenge your students to come up with some sports equipment (nouns) that can be used in obstacle courses. Work together to make a big list. Here are some that you may want to include:
Next, ask your students to think of some other useful equipment that can be used in obstacle courses that isn’t sports equipment:
ladders (flat on the ground)
pillows or pillowcases
Sports Vocabulary: Verbs
Next, work together to review some action verbs that might be used in obstacle course instructions:
climb up, climb over
hop, hop over
jump, jump over
roll, roll down
Think about special rules that sports often have:
Kid Challenge: Design Your Own Obstacle Course
Put students into small groups of 3–5. (Or, if you’re doing this at home, gather siblings or neighborhood kids.) Tell the kids they are going to design an obstacle course for their classmates. They have 5 tasks:
1. Name the obstacle course.
2. Provide a list of required equipment (nouns).
3. Write a list of instructions (using action verbs).
4. Add any special rules (E.g., “no sandals” or “no talking”)
5. Set up the obstacle course. (You may want to assign a day for each group during the last month of school. Or, you may want to designate a fun day.)
A Friendly Competition
Are your students or kids motivated by competition? If you want to make this activity competitive, here are some ideas:
- Time the kids as they go through the courses.
- Set up two courses side by side and make it a race.
- Come up with penalties (time or points) for knocking over a piece of equipment or doing something incorrectly.
- Give out awards (use superlatives, such as funniest walker, fastest hopper, silliest climber).
- Blindfold the child who is going through the course and pair each child with a language guide who provides instructions.
Indoor Obstacle Courses
If you can’t get outside, challenge the kids to build an obstacle course in your classroom or home. Allow them to rearrange the chairs, desks, and tables. Time the kids to see who makes it through the quickest.
Related on Sprout English and ESL Library
Are you doing a lesson theme on Sports this year? This week’s Spotlight lesson on Skateboarding comes from our Discovery Center lesson section on Sports. .
Next week on our sister site, Shelly Terrell will share a big list of ideas for wrapping up the school year. If you teach older students, you may want to check out ESL Library’s collection of Sports-Themed Lesson Plans for English learners.
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