Go, Stop, Hands, Knees….

I learned this game at a theatre educator conference some years back and use it with all the groups I work with: mainstream drama students, adult actors, English language learners and teachers. I’ve never seen it written down, so we are going oral tradition here, so feel free to change the commands or pair them up in a way that fits for you. Anything goes. This is one of a series of warm-up movement games, that while not specific to language development, adds a great deal to the “spirit” of a class, and I do believe has some language development benefits for ELL students. The basic rules are this: have your group work in as large a space as possible: outside works well, or a small classroom with tables and chairs moved to the side, or an auditorium stage if you have it. In the video I pick it up in part II when you mix the commands up. These are the basic commands that you should teach first. For EL students in particular I like to teach them in pairs, one pair at a time until I know everyone understands them and then add the next pair.

Pair one

Go—walk around the space


All the following commands imply a stop while doing it (in other words students stop as they do the command)

Pair 2

Hands—Hands up in the air (optional, jazz hands)

Knees—Hands on knees

Pair 3

Jump—One hop in the air

Clap—One clap

Pair 4

Wave—wave hello/goodbye

Snap—snap your fingers

Step one: teach the basic commands, slowly at first (a 5 seconds between each at first) and one by one. Then speed it up and mix it up until you feel all the students have those basics. Go……..stop…..hands….knees….jump….


Step two: mix up one pair at a time

“When I say stop you go, when I say go you stop”…..after this is established add the other elements until all the command pairs are mixed. Your “script” will sound like this: “When I say stop you go, when I say go you stop. When I say hands, you put your hands on your knees, when I say knees you put your hands in the air. When I say jump you clap, when I say clap you jump. When I say wave you snap, when I say snap you wave”.

Step three: run them all mixed up as fast as you can and enjoy the laughter.