United we stand, divided we fall

Here’s another activity from our forthcoming, Remote Theatre Handbook, this time from the chapter on physical activities. As always we’d love it if you could try out the activity with your students, and give us some feedback. We’d especially like to have some video versions of students doing some of the ‘body idiom’ mimes, and, with permission of course, may be able to include these in the book.

Chunky mimes

1) Tell the group that you’re going to do a mime of a chunk or a sentence which uses the particular area of language that you’d like to focus on (see examples in the boxes below). Mime the sentence to them and then ask them to write what they think it is in the chat. The first person to write an accurate sentence which reflects your mime is awarded a (virtual) prize. See some examples with students in this video.

2) Divide up the chosen examples so that each group has a few each. Ask them to prepare to mime them to each other in a way that will make it as easy as possible to guess them through the webcam. Once they’ve done that see if they can add their own examples which use the same pattern or area of language, and to mime these to each other too.

3) Each group present some of the mimes they’ve been working on (either as a group or individually) for their virtual partners to guess.

Past continuous and past simple

1) I was hanging up the washing and it started to pour with rain.

2) I was having a shower and the phone rang.

3) I was watching TV when we had a power cut.

4) I was washing up when I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my back.

5) I was writing an email when my computer suddenly froze.

6) I was talking on the phone when it suddenly died.

7) I was eating some soup when I suddenly noticed that there was a cockroach in it.

8) I was digging the garden and I found a gold necklace.

9) I was playing tennis and the ball hit me in the face.

10) I was ironing my clothes when I suddenly got an electric shock.

Problems (using the present perfect)

Note: These sentences all use the present perfect to show the present impact of an event which has already happened. So the mimes should show this rather than the event itself (eg with the first one, students should mime their annoyance and trying to get the coffee stain out, rather than the actual act of spilling the coffee)

1) You’ve spilt coffee all over your favourite shirt.

2) Your phone has died.

3) You’ve lost your door key.

4) You’ve twisted your ankle.

5) You’ve forgotten what you came into the room for.

6) You’ve bitten your tongue.

7) You’ve eaten too much.

8) You’ve forgotten to bring an umbrella.

9) You’ve lost your voice.

10)Your car has broken down.

Body idioms

Note: Since these chunks don’t really follow a similar pattern to each other, they are much harder to guess. Therefore, the students may decide to say the answer after they’ve mimed it to avoid a frustrating wait. This isn’t a problem; the learning happens in the way that idiomatic language is represented physically.

1) I’ll give you a hand (I’ll help you)

2) I’m up to my ears in work (I’m very busy with work)

3) I’m up to my neck in it (I have a lot of problems right now)

4) That went over my head. (I didn’t understand it)

5) I’m going to give you a piece of my mind. (I’m going to tell you off)

6) We don’t see eye to eye (We don’t agree about things)

7) She looks down her nose at everyone (she thinks she is superior to everyone else)

8) Biting the hand that feeds you (treating a person badly when they treat you well)

9) A sight for sore eyes (a nice thing to see that cheers you up)

10) He gave her the cold shoulder (he ignored her)

General Notes

1) This activity works well as revision so it’s good if you choose an area of language that the students are already somehow familiar with. However, mime is an excellent way to clarify meaning, to activate what may have previously been passive knowledge, and to make language memorable, so they certainly don’t need to know the language area inside out beforehand.

2) Students don’t need to be experts at miming in order to take part and benefit from this activity. In fact, in terms of language development, there may actually be more language produced by the guessing students if the student doing the miming doesn’t do it very well.  

3)  We could, of course just ask the class to shout out their answers when they are guessing. This would be quicker but probably less rich in terms of learning. If students have to write, there is the chance for more people to be involved (both in guessing and in seeing what others guess) and they are also more likely to try to be accurate.

4) Exercises like this are a great way to develop students’ awareness about how they can present themselves physically through a webcam, which in turn is great preparation for working on a remote play.

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