July 15, 2015

Learning English with Flying Hankerchieves

"Aesthetic matters are fundamental for the 
harmonious development of both society and the individual."
Friedrich Schiller

I simply love having hankerchieves in my classes because these flying and maleable colourful pieces of light fabric bring much more than joy, movement, and fantasy. Flying hankerchieves bring a sense of aesthetic and beauty to the process of language learning.

These small pieces of magic allow students to create language while playing, to move their bodies while learning, and to see them beautifully floating in the air.

That's probably why I have have given over 50 sets of these flying hankerchieves made by my mom Stella to fellow English teachers at congresses and school visits around the world.You can make your very own hankerchieves by cutting 15-cm squares of colourful and very light fabric. 

Here I share 12 creative ways through which flying hankerchiefs can promote affective language learning in your class:

Ready or not, here I come!

1. Counting numbers: children can count with hankerchieves in several different ways. One way is to have only one hankerchief being passed around, one variation is to give a hankerchief to a small number of children to be passed around, and finally a pair can share a hankerchief. Another possibility to prctising counting is to throw the hankerchief really high in the air and children count until it touches the floor.

2. Drawing numbers, letters, and words: you can model drawing numbers, letters and even words in the air which students should guess. One student can then be invited to do it to the classroom and finally students do it in pairs of small groups. It can also be done with ribbons that will maintain even longer the shape of the numbers and letters. Great fun!

3. Noticing colours: here I share some ways that you probably already know. The first one is hiding one in your hand and students have to guess which colour you have. Another is hiding them in the room to be found. Next you can play the subtracting game by getting one colour from the pile and getting them to notice which one you got. Last you can display the hankerchieves on the floor in a certain order, ask kids to close their eyes, and change the order, students have to tell you what has changed. All these can be played as a big group, small group, and then in pairs.

4. Touching body parts: here one throws a hankerchief in the air and students have to get them with the part of the body that is chosen. A variation is to say a student's name and a body part as a challenge. If the students completes the challenge, he or she says the name of the next student and a different body part.  Great fun!

5. Exchanging things they like: you get a hankerchief and you tell students you have something of that colour in your hand. One can say for instance that the white hankerchief is a cloud,  the red one a strawberry, and the blue one is the ocean. Have students say what things each colour is. Then each student can get a hankerchief and say what they have in their hands. In the last movement, students ask each other what they have and  if they would like to exchange them.More advanced students can give reasons why they accept or not the exchange.

6. Checking students' emotions: tell students you feel happy when you pick the yellow hankerchief. They can them tell you which colour means happy for them. After that learners can choose a flying hankerchief according to how they feel on a certain day or about a certain topic. They can choose for example the white one if they are really calm or the yellow one because the like the sunny day.

7. Creating things ( or even a scenario!) : call out some things that have one color like the sun or water and let students make them on the floor, after this call out things like trees or a watermelon that have two or more colours. When you notice your students are really good at it invite them to make a scenario with all the hankerchieves. If they choose making a beach for instance, they can use the blue ones as the ocean, the yellow ones as the beach, and the green as palm trees. Their creations are usually incredible!

8. Discovering things with the chosen colors: this is the opposite of the previous activity. Each learner chooses a hankerchief and the teacher calls two students. These students have then to say which thing has the colors of their hankerchieves. For example, black and blue could be a policeman's uniform or even a sunken ship. You can leave their creations on the floor. Call out all the students until they run out of hankerchieves.

9. Telling a story: here you can start a story by giving a specific meaning to one hankerchief. For the story to continue one student comes and ties his/her hankerchief to the first one. Example: Once there a flea (black one) that fell in the water (blue one) and then the day started to get really hot (yellow) and so on. Once all the hankerchieves are used students can retell or even rewrite the whole story.

10. Reading through them: a fun way to use the hankerchieves is to read through them. You can decide together with the class if colors have any special moods or ways to read. Hankerchieves can be changed after some time. Some possibilities are fast, slowly, prolifically, sleepy, angrily, in love, etc.

11. Listening to words: students can be given flashcards with words that will appear in a story or in a song. Whenever they listen to the word they have been assigned they throw their hankerchief to the air. It is a beautiful scene to see all of them flying in the air. Make sure you say every word many times to make children pay close attention. I usually say all the words in my last sentence.

12. Listening to similarities: students are given a hankerchief each. Then in pairs they face each other, one starts saying one sentence at a time about personal facts or opinion. Then if the other person has the same fact or the same opinion, this person throws the hnkerchief to the other and repeats the sentence that was said, and then continues the game by saying sentences until the other person repeats it and throws the hankerchief. Students go switching who is doing the talking until they have swapped hankerchiefs a certain number of times.

Bonus activity: have them dancing! 

 Here you can see me with  two wood crosses and eight hankerchieves. Tie one to each edge and you can have a bunch of birds flying or ghosts dancing.

Thanks to Pravita Indriati from Indonesia for the pictures of her students learning with the flying hankerchieves!

Which was your favourite activity?
Do you have any other idea on how to these beautiful flying hankerchieves?

Hope to meet you at a congress and to be able to give you personally a set of flying hankerchieves!

Sending you a big hug,


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  1. As usual, you inspire us with simple and practical ideas! I have a huge collections of handkerchiefs and pashminas but... I never realized I could use them in class except to play "Gallito Ciego" (hope you understand what I mean). Now... with all these ideas, my stuff will come to life when it is in class! Thanks a lot! Smiles from Argentina, Maria :)

    1. Hi, Maria!
      It's always great to hear from you, my dear friend
      Really happy you like these activities and that you already have lots of hankechieves to put these ideas into practice. I do understand Gallito Ciego.
      Lots of hugs from Brazil,


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