How can I introduce movement and drawing in the online YL classroom?

Read this article by Ignacio González, which explores introducing movement and drawing in young learner online classes.

A young learner learning online with a woman next to her

Teaching English online to young Learners (YLs) is a demanding task. One of the main problems for YL teachers in this remote-learning era is that the different online platforms we use to deliver our lessons do not offer the same classroom interaction, nor the same variety of activities we can provide to the learners in physical school settings. Activities like singing aloud, circle time, arts and crafts, drawing/coloring, etc. are difficult to run in the online context. As a result of these limitations, our learners’ attention spans might be affected, making learning more difficult. 

Although online classrooms lack the dynamism of traditional classrooms, it is still possible to create an engaging and interactive learning environment. This article provides a variety of classroom activities, involving movement and drawing, that can be used to keep primary school children (ages 6 to 11) engaged and motivated in online settings. 


There are a variety of games that teachers can use to engage learners in physical activities at home. For example, games like Simon says, scavenger hunts and show-and-tell activities can be easily adapted to online classrooms.  

In the online version of Simon says, learners can follow instructions to move their bodies in front of the camera. It is an ideal game to practise body parts ('Simon says touch your nose'), action verbs ('Simon says jump to the kitchen') house objects ('Simon says find a ball') and numbers ('Simon says count the numbers of chairs at home'). 

In a scavenger hunt, learners can be asked to find specific objects around their homes, such as a red fruit or a green ball (while learning about food/colours/ shapes).  

Show-and-tell activities can also be adapted to the online environment as 'Show to the camera' and tell. One of the many advantages of online learning is that both teachers and learners have access to a wide variety of real-world objects that can be used to make lessons more engaging and interesting than traditional face-to-face instruction.  

In addition to games, teachers can incorporate movement into the classroom routine at the beginning of each lesson. Presenting the school materials to the camera, performing mimes to check how you're feeling today, doing desk stretches or standing up from your chair to check what the weather’s like are all activities that can help create a more dynamic and fun classroom routine in your online class.  


Drawing and colouring provide excellent opportunities for our learners to take screen breaks. Guided drawings, picture dictations and freer drawings can be easily incorporated into online classrooms. 

Guided drawings are a type of drawing in which the teacher leads learners through each step, showing them exactly where and how to make the next line or mark on their drawing. Guided drawing aids YLs with the scaffolding they need to successfully complete a drawing task, and it also supports their development of vocabulary and sequencing skills. Teachers can project the drawing onto the screen or use paper, providing step-by-step instructions. An example is how to draw a cat:     

Step 1: Draw a big circle for the head.  

Step 2: On top of the head, draw two pointy triangles for the ears.  

Step 3: Inside the circle, draw two smaller circles for eyes. 

Step 4: Draw a tiny triangle just below the eyes for the nose.  

Step 5: Around the nose, draw three to five wavy lines for whiskers. 

In online picture dictations, the teacher describes a picture to learners, and they simply listen and draw what they hear the teacher describe. It is an ideal activity to practise vocabulary about clothes, colours, objects, prepositions, food, there is and there are, etc.    

  • Clothes: He is wearing a green shirt and blue trousers.  

  • Prepositions: There is a cat next to the chair.  

  • Food: There is a bowl with two apples, a banana and an orange. 

Picture dictations offer the advantage that they can promote student-centered communication. Students can describe pictures to each other in the breakout rooms and compare their drawings to the originals. This interaction offers the opportunity to practice their speaking and listening skills.    

After finishing with the cat or the picture dictation, then comes the fun part. Let's colour it. Freer drawing and colouring provide learners with the freedom to create their version of the language being acquired, while using their creativity and imagination. It is also a powerful tool for expressing emotions, and aids learners in developing their fine motor skills. Set a time limit and ask learners to describe their finished pictures to each other.  

We can conclude by saying that in addition to the recreational and screen-break benefits, physical movement and drawing in the online classroom can keep learners active and avoid them being too sedentary while studying online.  


Ignacio González is an EFL teacher and trainer from Caracas, Venezuela. He holds a Masters degree in applied linguistics from Simón Bolívar University and recently completed his DipTESOL. He also holds the Cambridge CELTA and TYLEC qualifications. González actively participates as a frequent speaker and contributes his expertise at both national and international conventions, such as VenTESOL, BBELT and TESOL International. He is currently training primary school teachers and teaching at the British Council in Caracas, Venezuela. 

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