Lesson: Tie a shoelace in one second!

Children and shoelaces…

If you teach young learners, especially young primary, you will notice what a protracted affair it is when they attempt to tie their shoelaces. They lack the dexterity and patience to do it properly, which probably explains why so many just don’t bother. It’s frustrating both for them and you, especially when you have to put an activity on hold until their laces are tied.

I stumbled across a video on the internet on how to tie your shoelaces in 1 second. Take a look:

If your interest and curiosity is piqued by all things magical, I guarantee the same feelings will be stirred in an eight-year-old.

Here is a lesson created specifically for mid-primary beginner/elementary learners of English based on this video. Even if it lends itself to lower levels, the materials could really be used with any age group or proficiency level.

You can download the worksheet here: Lesson. Tie a shoelace in one second

We obviously want students to learn this trick and in theory they could use their own shoelaces. However, given the different stages of motor skill development, length of shoelaces – if they even have shoelaces! – it’s better to use string instead. I used fairly long lengths of string, secured round the back of a chair. You could also use table or chair legs, etc.


  • Get students to watch the video and harness interest: it’s a magic trick more than it is a how-to-tie-your-shoelaces instructional video.
  • Perform the gap-fill activity (see worksheet): students listen as many times as is necessary.
  • Students read through the dialogue: clarify and deal with any emergent language.
  • Demonstrate the trick for the class: I would even get them to do it in lockstep with you.
  • Pairs or small groups: students work together to learn the trick.
  • Monitor and assist: they will need help! Don’t underestimate how hard it is!
  • Play the video on loop.
  • Once students have developed some proficiency in performing the trick, reintroduce the instructions from the gap-fill activity.
  • Students perform the trick for the class/small groups with some/all of the instructional language.
  • Differentiation: one student performs the trick while their partner reads the instructions.
  • Give feedback to the whole class.
  • Set homework: perform the trick at home with some/all of the task language. If they have a mobile phone, record family members reactions, and bring the video in next lesson to share with the rest of the class.

I have used this material a few times with varying degrees of success. The key factor is motor skill development and that probably rules out young primary learners. It is, however, a meaningful real-world task which is engaging. If your students are struggling, persevere and turn it into a project, done at the tail end of a series of lessons. Just don’t give up, there will be a sense of accomplishment once they get it. Enjoy!

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Featured video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMuNjnNyaiA

Need more teaching ideas? You may be interested in these: Games and board games


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