Teaching English generally requires a different approach whether it's children or adults in your class. One thing that both approaches have in common is the need for good warmers. Giving your lesson a nice "warm-up" is incredibly important to how smoothly the class goes. Nervous students get a chance to relax, students who don't want to be there get a chance to change their opinion, and sleepy students get woken up.
Not only that, it's also a great way to get some interaction between teacher and students and build rapport.
Some warmers will be ones that you can use again and again, while others might be "single-use" activities. Some require you to be familiar with your class, and others are best for getting to know your students (or letting them get to know you). We've included a mixture in this list so that you'll be well prepared whatever the situation.
Two Great Single-Use Warmers
1. "Detect My Lies"
If you're a new teacher, or you've not known your students for a long time, walk into the classroom and write 4 or more facts and 4 or more lies about yourself on the whiteboard. The students have to guess which ones are true and which are false. With young or low-level students you'll have to make the statements simple, or even draw some pictures. Make some of the lies outrageous, and choose some of the less obvious facts to add to the fun and engagement levels.
You COULD in theory do this warmer many different times with different facts, but it works best as a warmer with a new class.
You can mix it up by letting students take turns to write the facts/lies too.
2. "Fruit Salad"
This warmer sometimes goes by other names. Have your students write down 1-6 on a piece of paper/in their notebooks. Go through each number instructing them what to write:
1. Tell them to write any fruit.
2. Any vegetable.
3. A number from 1-199
4. Ask them a "yes/no" question and tell them to write the answer. (They should only write "Yes" rather than "Yes I Do" etc).
5. Tell them to write the total number of pens and pencils in their pencil case.
6. Tell them to write the first thing they do when they wake up in the morning. "I open my eyes" etc.
Next you must collect the papers, or instruct students to swap papers with one another so that they don't change their answers. You're now going to tell them what these 6 numbers really mean.
1. Their first name.
2. Their surname.
3. Their age.
4. Are they married?
5. How many children they have.
6. Their job.
For weaker students you might need to use images to help explain the meaning. This is a very funny activity and even adults find it funny. If you are lucky you will get students who are 5 years old and have 27 children!
There are many other tried and tested warmers that you can use as well. Below is a quick list for you to go through. Make sure you keep your warmers fresh or students will get bored, defeating the whole purpose of having one!
1. Change Chairs - There must be 1 more student than chair. A student stands at the front of the classroom and says "Change chairs if you have.....(red socks)" (for example) and every student with red socks changes chairs. The student who spoke must try to sit in one of the free chairs, leaving a new student chair-less. The one without a chair is the next one to choose.
2. Hangman - This is a staple of warmers. Every teacher has it in their arsenal. Make sure you don't let it drag on, the purpose of a warmer is a quick 5 minute activity to ease people into the lesson. Don't know Hangman? Learn the rules here.
3. Anagrams - Choose some of the previous lessons' target vocabulary and write them up on the board jumbled up. Students race to solve the words.
4. Pictionary - Draw a picture which represents a word or a sentence and students have to guess what it is.
5. Cherades - The same as Pictionary but with actions/mimes instead of pictures. No speaking allowed by the one doing the actions.
6. Boggle - Draw a grid (any size is good, but around 7x7 squares is ideal) and fill it with various letters. Students must try to make words using those letters. They can only use each letter once, so if you want multiple "As" write 2 or 3 As in the grid. The longest word wins. This game should be timed.
7. Write Race - Write a sentence on the board and the students must race to copy it down. This can be done in teams with each student writing one word, or individually. To add difficulty, give the students a few seconds to memorize the sentence then erase it.
8. Memory - Write or draw various words/objects on the board. Give students 1-2 minutes to memorize them all, then erase them and ask them to call out what they remember (or write them down).
9. I Spy - A classic game that works very well for reviewing classroom vocabulary.
10. Riddles - This works better with older or more advanced students. Write or speak a riddle on the board and see if anyone can figure out the answer. For a great list of riddles, view this article.
How Important Are Warmers
When it comes to classroom management, getting students to settle down early on is vital, and a fun warmer is an excellent way of doing this. It also allows you to ease into the foreign language environment. If you walk into the classroom and fire some difficult tasks at students or ask them to open their books immediately, they'll soon get bored or confused.
Remember it takes some people a bit of time to adjust their brain to switching into a different language.
Warmers are also a good way of reviewing the previous lessons' target language, and a chance for weaker students to do something they are good at. Try to make them as fun and engaging as possible, and involve the whole class as often as you can.
Typically a warmer should last 5 minutes, but if things are going well or you're reviewing previous language, feel free to extend it to 10 or even 15 minutes. This will depend on how long your class is and how much you have to cover of course.
More Resources For Warmers
The list above is far from exhaustive. There are plenty of great resources for more warmer ideas. You can try the following:
2. Fellow Teachers.
3. Your imagination.
4. Websites such as this one.
Do you have any great warmers of your own? We'd love to hear them! Write in the comments below and help turn this page into a fantastic resource for warmers.