The wave?!

TLDR: Use “the wave” to practice TPR gestures with your students!! Here is a video of students doing the activity in my class, and directions are below!


I remember being in 4th grade at a giant youth rally, and they had us all do the wave. Little me had so much fun watching everyone around the arena throw their hands in the air, yell “woo!” and have it go all the way around the arena in one big giant circle. It was one of the highlights of my childhood (lame I know, but it was sooo cool!!)

Then, I went to an Iowa World Language Association (IWLA) conference several years ago and heard Ms. Lisa Sobotka talk about how she used a similar idea in her classes to practice weather phrases, and I have used it in my classes ever since (with my own twist)! It is so much fun. My students look forward to doing it so much so that I open one class a week with five minutes of weather phrase practic…games! They love to see how many phrases they can get going around the circle at once.

How to play the first time (and I do this all in the TL. Very rarely do I need to explain the activity as I allow them to learn by doing):

  1. Everyone stands in a circle
  2. Remind students of the wave and practice the wave around the circle a few times. If students do not say “woo” as well as making the action of throwing their hands in the air I stop, move to a different location in the circle, and start over. Eventually students figure out they have to say “woo” and throw their hands up for it to make it all the way around. Make it a BIG deal when they make it all the way around the circle. ¡Celebración!
  3. Say one of the phrases, do the action for it (since I primarily use this with weather, I’ll say the phrase “it’s sunny” in the TL and throw my hands in the air in a big circle), and look at the student to your left/right. They will look to the person next to them and say the same phrase with the same action, and so on.
  4. Wait for this phrase to make it all the way around the circle, praise praise praise, and then move to a new location in the circle to have a new starting person. Sometimes it won’t make it all the way around and that’s ok! If someone is spaced out and misses their cue, move to a different location in the circle and start over.
  5. When it makes it all the way around, move to a new location in the circle
  6. Do the phrase you just practiced, and after it makes it halfway through the circle, throw another phrase in. if they make a mistake, find a new place to stand in the circle so you have a new starting person, and try again. When they make it all the way around, praise praise praise, and then find a new starting place.
  7. Send three phrases now!
  8. Find a new starting place and send four phrases now!
  9. Send three phrases, and then the fourth send the other direction in the circle. This takes them a while to get used to – having phrases going in both directions. It’s HILARIOUS to watch, and so fun to celebrate with them when they figure it out!

After you have played for five minutes or so, stop the activity and move on. Even if interest is high, STOP PLAYING!! Otherwise students lose interest and don’t look forward to doing the activity anymore. If at ANY time there is too much side conversation and students aren’t paying attention, call students out on it. If it continues, end the activity (or if it just one or two students send them out. This game is distracting enough without additional distractions).

As students get used to the activity, you can have the same number of phrases going one way around the circle as the other way – sometimes they’ll make it all the way around, sometimes they won’t – just keep moving around the circle to give students the opportunities to have different timings in the circle. My students have told me this is so good at helping them feel prepared for real conversations because everyone talks really fast, there are distractions, and they have to be ready to respond at a moments notice. I say if it helps them build confidence, I am all for it!

Here is a video of students doing the activity in my class – I hope it helps give you an idea!

One thought on “The wave?!

  1. Pingback: TPR Gestures Part 2 | life lessons with profe

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