All Tied Up is a simple but fun activity to practice intense, careful listening.

The basic idea here is that you give instructions on how to tie a tie. The students must listen very carefully!

To run this activity all you need is a tie and a set of instructions; make sure you have plenty of ties to go round the class.


First, demonstrate how to tie a tie in front of the class. To arouse the students’ curiosity at this stage you might just stand in front of the class and without further explanation just take a tie from your pocket, examine it carefully, and put it on.

You might then pre-teach a few useful words:

  • tie
  • knot
  • wide/narrow
  • neck

Then get a student to the front of the class and give out careful instructions. Don’t correct the student if they get them mixed up at this stage!

  1. Put the tie around your neck; the wide end on the left and the wide end about 40 centimeters longer than the narrow end.
  2. Cross the ends near the top, the wide end over the narrow end.
  3. Hold the tie where the two ends meet with your left hand.
  4. Wrap the wide end under then over the narrow end above your left hand and pull the knot together.
  5. Fold the wide end under and through the loop around your neck and pull the knot together.
  6. Tuck the wide end through the loop at the front from the top.
  7. Tighten the knot then pull it up to your neck.

Next, of course, you give ties to your students and have them practice with the instructions!


There are plenty of variations here you can make:

  • one student reads whilst another ties the tie
  • introduce different kinds of tie knots with slightly different instructions
  • have a quick competition to see who has tied the best knot
  • do this with a bowtie – it’s almost impossible!

Then, of course, you can introduce other tasks which involve imperatives. Great team games can include:

  • laying a table (bring in plastic cutlery, paper plates and so on)
  • building a house from Lego
  • laying out Cuisenaire rods in certain patterns

Useful Links

How to Speak to English Language Students – the best way to talk to your students so they understand.

Imperative Sentences in English – the grammar behind giving instructions.

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