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How To Use Mime As A Lead In To English Classes - ESL Teachers

Andrew is a TEFL graduate and has recently taught classes in the UK. A keen traveller and article writer, he has also tutored 1:1 abroad.

Mime - a whisper or a call?

Mime - a whisper or a call?

If you're looking for a fun and interesting way to lead in to your class lesson then I would recommend using mime. Mime is a straightforward simple kind of action that will immediately grab the attention of your students and keep them focused on you.

The good thing is, you don't have to be an actor or a drama sensation to pull it off and be a success. Plus, you don't need a painted white face!!

I've tried it many times in various classes of all shapes and sizes and it always helps spark the lesson.

Mime can be an excellent way to warm up the class for more rigorous learning later on. In this article I'll show you how to perform very easy mimes that can be linked to all kinds of different topics and tasks. I'm certain that, once you get the hang of using mime, you'll want to return to it again and again because it's such a flexible tool.

Learning English through mime will delight and challenge your students and help you get off to a positive start in your teaching.


Mime can be a part of your normal lesson plan.

Mime can be a part of your normal lesson plan.

Action - Observation - Words

Mime is a very useful tool for learning new action words. Your students will enjoy giving quick responses to your silent actions!

You could even ask them to join in. Ask for a volunteer to come out, stand up and mime an action for the others to guess at.

Starting The Lead In

To start your mime stand up in front of the class and ask if anyone knows the meaning of mime. You could use a board to write down any responses you get. When I did this for the first time I got numerous answers ranging from acting to imitation, both of which are sort of correct!

Encourage the class to form their own definition and once they're happy with this explain to them that you are now going to perform a mime and you would like the class to guess what it is you're doing.

Perform your first simple mime. Let's say you decide to play an air guitar. You finger the chords with one hand and strum the strings with the other. But of course you're not going to speak, you'll remain silent throughout the mime.

At this stage verbal answers will be fine. Elicit as many as you can and give positive responses. The more observant students will be spot on with their answers but you should get many varied descriptions, some of which will be worthwhile exploring in their own right!

When you've exhausted the answers move on to the serious stuff - you'll perform five simple mimes and you'll ask the class to write down what they observe.


Let the students know that you need answers in a definite written form. For example:

In present simple tense.

  • You are ..........eating food.
  • I am ...... drinking from a cup.
  • The teacher is ...... throwing a ball.
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Five Simple Mimes

1. Eating food

2. Drinking from a cup.

3. Reading a book.

4. Looking at a bird in the sky.

5. Throwing a ball.


Several Learning Skills Involved

Mime encourages your students to:

  • observe closely
  • think critically
  • give spontaneous verbal responses
  • write about what they're observing

Make Sure The Students Have Understood

When you've finished the mimes ask the students if they all managed to write something down. If you get the all clear start eliciting for answers.

You can then write the varying responses down on your board, making a note of special words and phrases that may crop up. Be sure to ask individual students - those who may be a little quieter than the others - for their written answers too.

Write down 5 clear answers to each each mime in present simple tense. For example:

You are.....looking at a bird.

You are.....throwing a ball.

The next step would be to ask the students to change the present simple to past simple.

You looked at a bird.

You threw a ball.

Ask the class to do the same for all the other answers and see what they come up with. This could be a written or a verbal exercise.


Describing What Happened

Mime is an excellent way to get your students to describe what is happening or what just happened. Encourage them to use language concisely and briefly.

At the end of 5 mimes you may want your students to summarise what they've just observed using phrases and words such as:



There are two possible explanations...



Therefore what followed....

After a brief pause...

In small groups, try to get your students to come up with different interpretations of the same mimes. Then ask the groups to present their summary to the rest of the class. You can elicit some great feedback doing it this way.


Develop And Progress

Having gone through the present simple tense and listened to all of the written responses you can then start to develop the exercises. Ask the class to create a longer sentence with more detail in it.

For example:

You are looking at a bird......that is flying high in the sky.

You are throwing a ball.......for your dog to chase.

This will test the students' imaginations and vocabulary.


Make teaching fun - for any age!

Make teaching fun - for any age!

You can also ask the class to write down two sentences OR use a connecting word or phrase to link two sentences into one.

For example:

You are throwing the want the dog to fetch it.

Other connecting words you can consider include:

in comparison with

compared to



but also

in addition

not only



and, as a result.

I'm sure you'll be able to develop this idea even further and maybe get the class to create a mini story from the mimes you perform!


5 More Mimes

  • playing a drum
  • using a screwdriver
  • peeling a banana
  • hitting a tennis ball with a racket
  • walking a tightrope.



Knowing how to pronounce new words is really important for your students. Correct pronunciation helps build confidence and constant practice is the way to make real progress.

Write sentences down on the board containing new words and get the whole class to repeat after you to ensure that learning has taken place.

Then ask individuals to say the sentence to further reinforce learning.


Timing and Feedback

Mime is an interesting and fun way to start or finish your class but make sure you get the timing right. I'd say you'd need 10-20 minutes only for this exercise, then you can carry on with a more formal part of your lesson plan.

Feedback however is essential. You must try to respond to all verbal answers and take a few extra minutes to check the written work too. Go round the class if necessary. If you come across something that could be of interest to the whole class you can use the board to expand further. These moments of insight can be good transitional times - let the group know you're moving on from mime and on to something a little more conventional.


© 2014 Andrew Spacey


Andrew Spacey (author) from Sheffield, UK on February 13, 2014:

Thank you for the visit and comment, I appreciate that.

Dianna Mendez on February 13, 2014:

I'm glad I stopped in here today. I am always on the look out for new teaching ideas. This is a great way to teach new concepts in most subjects. Thank you. I'm using this as an ice breaker as well.

Andrew Spacey (author) from Sheffield, UK on January 17, 2014:

Thank you Ann.

Ann Carr from SW England on January 17, 2014:

Yes, memory is always heightened by multi-sensory teaching and by involvement in that - you can't lose! Ann

Andrew Spacey (author) from Sheffield, UK on January 16, 2014:

Thank you Ann. I was a little wary when I first tried mime on my unsuspecting ESOL students but they loved it. And it did help them recall the answers.

I really appreciate your visit.

Ann Carr from SW England on January 16, 2014:

Great hub! I've used mime and silly pictures and all sorts but this is a wonderful idea for present and past tenses. It's a while since I taught foreign students but I found it such an enjoyable job and so rewarding when they all had fun learning the language. If learning is fun then it's not a chore and we remember it far more easily.

All teachers would benefit from reading this. Brilliant! Ann

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