Do you use these 2 fun activities in your ESL classroom?
April 21, 2015 | By: Caitlin Hirsch
Categories: Teacher Tuesday

Today we want to share a couple of fun activities you can adopt in your classroom to help student engagement and learning. These can be incorporated into just about any lesson plan and are suitable for young kids as well as adult learners.

Teaching English is important, difficult work. We hope Snapshot! and Freeze Frame are tools you can use to make learning English a little easier and more fun for all!


Grade: 3rd grade +
Subject: ESL, English, Social Studies
Best for: wide variety of subjects/skills, such as practicing/assessing vocabulary, main idea, important details, creative interpretation/expression, character traits

Why Snapshot works

Total Physical Response (TPR) is a great way to help English language learners develop comprehension of both the English language as well subject content. It allows English language learners to engage with, practice, and develop knowledge and understanding without relying on speaking/writing. Engages both lower- and higher-order thinking skills. Teachers can easily assess students’ depth of understanding of a topic.

What you do

  1. Have the students slowly walk around the room until you call out a word or phrase; the students then immediately adopt a pose demonstrating the word or phrase as if they were the subject in a snapshot.
  2. Ask them to hold their pose while you walk around the room and call attention to two to three students.
  3. Give those students feedback or elicit feedback from the other students. Ask probing questions.
  4. Instruct the students to again walk around the room until the you call out the next pose.


Ms. Smith’s sophomores are currently reading The Great Gatsby. Ms. Smith will use the Snapshot! activity to review vocabulary words, character traits, plot details, and the main idea of a chapter. The students begin walking around the room. Then Ms. Smith calls out, “clandestine!” The students immediately strike a pose (crouch down, cover face, put finger to lips—shh!—etc.), and Ms. Smith walks around the room to check out their “snapshots” and ask probing questions, give compliments, etc.

The students then begin walking around again until Ms. Smith calls out, “Jordan!” The students might pose as a golfer, or adopt a “showy” stance. Again, Ms. Smith will walk around the room and elicit conversation about the students’ snapshots and, thus, the character Jordan. Ms. Smith continues the activity as she calls out “Where does Gatsby invite Nick?” and then lastly, “What is this chapter mostly about?”

Freeze Frame

Freeze Frame is an activity similar to Snapshot!, but instead of the students individually and spontaneously posing, you will instead put them into small groups (2–4) and give them time (3–5 minutes) to create a tableau. The tableau here would be a scene where everyone is frozen in a position. For example:

  • Ms. Smith’s class would be divided into small groups of three
  • The students would have approximately three minutes to figure out a way to depict the main idea of the chapter
  • Each group would be given a chance to come up in front of the class and hold their pose for the rest of the class to look at and discuss

Other ESL activities to help prepare your students can be found on our site in the Teachers section. You may also want to check out our guide for Choosing and Using an English Placement Test: Where to Begin?

[optin-monster-shortcode id=”eql7vgdeh9-post”]