Get inspiration from your childhood

The warmers we do in class and in teacher-training sessions are often based on our childhood playground games. (Also see: Warmers: Tick and Tag.)  ‘Please, Mr Crocodile’ is no exception.  It’s great either as a warmer or as a focus-changing activity, and it’s easy to adapt for classroom use.

It’s also a good way to revise & practise vocabulary.  Basic lexical sets you can use it for are colours, clothes and physical appearance. These work best, as they’re based on visual ‘evidence’, so there’s no room for cheating!  But with a class who know each other well, you can expand it to age, family, hobbies, activities and even experiences.  (You really do have to watch out for accusations of fibbing in non-visual cases!)

How to play ‘Please, Mr Crocodile’

Get the class to stand against a wall.  Use chalk to draw one line for them to stand behind, another for the river in the middle, and a line on the other side for them to run behind.  Ask the students where they are – elicit/give ‘on the river bank’.  Then walk along the river miming the action of a crocodile, and ask the students what animal you are. Make sure you drill the word ‘crocodile’, or you’ll have students shouting ‘Please, Mr Cocodrile’ for the rest of the activity!

Depending on their level/age, ask the class questions relating to crocodiles: ‘What countries do you find them in? ’ ‘Are they herbivores? ’ ‘What colour are they? ’ ‘What do they eat?’ etc.

Then stand in the river and pre-teach as a chant. “Please, Mr Crocodile, can we cross the river?” You respond to the class  “You can cross the river if … (choose one) you’re wearing red / wearing glasses / your name begins with the letter N / you’ve got brown hair/blue eyes” etc.  Or the more ‘advanced’ options: “You can cross the river if … you’ve got two sisters / you live in a flat / you’ve been to England”.

These students can now cross the river safely.  Once they’re across, the rest of the class try to cross without you (the crocodile) catching them. If anyone is caught, they become crocodiles too, and the game continues until everyone is caught.

John playing 'Please Mr Crocodile with 60 children in the playground

Setting up ‘Please, Mr Crocodile’ with 50 students from CEIP Profesor Ramiro Jover de Valencia and with teachers at the GRETA conference

Preparation for a follow-up activity

For future games (it usually becomes a class favourite!), students take it in turns to be the caller.  I usually simplify the game for younger learners in the following way.  First I give them these three headings, either on the board, the walls or the floor:

  • Only if you’re wearing …
  • Only if you’ve got …
  • Only if you’re …


Then I read out words & expressions cards, and the students have to put the cards in the correct category.  For example, colours, clothes, coloured clothes (eg. a green T-shirt), age, nationality, height adjectives, colour of eyes or hair, length of hair.

I do a worksheet on this with them either before or after the activity, depending on their level & knowledge.

With a young/low-level student caller, it works like this.  The class chant ‘Please, Mr Cocodile, can we cross the river?’.  Then the caller pulls a card out of a bag.  You can scaffold this by including the ‘only if’ beginnings on the card.  If the students are stronger, let, them supply that part.  I find that having the cards works well with younger learners, as otherwise they take too long to call.  (Or they only call things that apply to their friends!)   A variation for very young learners who can’t read is to have picture cards in the bag.


Possible context or framing:

You could use this within a lesson on animals.  With younger learners, you can get some ideas here: Animal-Themed Lesson Ideas or here: 3D Animal Ideas for Classroom Use.

With older students, here’s a a link to an infographic which clearly shows the most dangerous animals and how many people are killed each year:

Put students in groups to discuss which they think are the most dangerous animals. They’re usually very surprised with the results!

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