Friday, October 16, 2015

Three Ring Circus

This is a fun way to preteach three verbs in an active way. I first saw Nancy Llewellyn demonstrate this activity at Rusticatio in 2010 but had forgotten about it until I saw Alina Filipescu use this in her session at NTPRS this summer. If you have any students who like to act/mime, this is a great activity for them:
  1. Pick out three verbs which you wish to preview/preteach and can be easily demonstrated by an action/gesture.
  2. Write the three verbs in the target language on three strips of paper, i.e., one verb per strip.
  3. Pick three students who will demonstrate the three verbs.
  4. Hold up the first strip, say the verb in the target language, and define the verb in English to establish meaning.
  5. Now have the first student demonstrate the action of the verb CONTINUOUSLY while you begin to circle, e.g. O class, Steven audit. (ohhh). Stevenne audit? (ita). Stevenne an Lady Gaga audit? (Steven). Lady Gagane audit? (minime). quis audit? (Steven). quid Steven agit? (audit)
  6. Now tell the first student to take a break and do the whole thing again with a new verb and student. Repeat again with the third verb and student.
  7. Line up all three students, and now ask three other students to stand behind them and to hold the strips over their heads.
  8. Tell all three students to demonstrate their actions simultaneously and continously (hence, the "three ring circus" aspect), while you circle regarding the three actions.
  1. When all three students are demonstrating their actions simultaneously as part of the Three Ring Circus, be aware: depending on the action, it can be very tiring for them if you do it for too long. This is a great activity in which to practice circling, but wow, one can get in a good workout acting out a verb. At Alina Filipescu's presentation, I had to demonstrate the verb "fight," and after a few minutes, I was really tired! Next time, I will ask if I can demonstrate "sit" or "stand"....
  2. I was surprised by how engaged students were in the activity. Maybe the choice in verbs and gestures lent itself to engaging students, maybe the students which I picked know how to ham it up.
  3. The three ring part of the activity naturally lends itself to circling, because you can ask about particular students, what they are doing, what they are not doing, who is doing what, who is not doing what, etc.
I have definitely added this activity to my CI arsenal, but I will probably only do it every 5-6 weeks to preserve the novelty.

P.S (July 23, 2018)
Here is a video of Grant Boulanger demonstrating Three Ring Circus in Spanish.

Here is another video demonstrating Three Ring Circus at 1:36.


  1. I would love to see a video of this in action. I love Alina!

    1. I found a short blurb in a video - starting at 1:36, you can see a short example of Three Ring Circus.