It’s good to have a repertoire of warmers that don’t need much preparation up your sleeve. These ones can be recycled in different contexts. You can use technology if you wish but it is not necessary – a board, pen and paper will do.
1. Tell me about your picture
This is a personal favourite for so many reasons that can be adapted to many topics, language points or learner level.
i. Learners, individually, draw a picture. Tn this case their family or people they would like to talk about – give them the choice.
ii. In pairs, or small groups, learners ask (specific questions) about each others picture – “Who is this?”, “How old is she?”, “What do you think she is doing now?”, “When did you last see her?”…..
iii. After the Q&A activity each learner tells their partner some things they remembered about the people in their picture.
2. Text deletion
A nice activity to introduce some text you are about to use in the lesson. It gets learners to use their grammatical knowledge creatively.
i.. Divide your class into groups (suggested maximum of 4 per group).
ii. Select a paragraph from a text / tape-script you will be using in the lesson and write it on the board. The length will depend on the level of your learner but 5-6 sentences should be plenty.
iii. The groups take it in turns to erase up to 5 consecutive words from the text. They can change the punctuation. However, the remaining be grammatically correct – the meaning may change.
iv. The last team that can erase any text whilst maintaining grammatical correctness is the winner.
3. Backs to the board
This vocabulary revision exercise can be played as a team game or a whole class warmer.
i. Make a list of recently introduced vocabulary.
ii. Learners sit or stand with their backs to the board.
iii. Write the vocabulary item on the board.
iv. The class or teams describe the word to the student who must guess it. In a team game the first team to guess gets a point.
v. Swap guessers after each vocabulary item.
4. Organise yourselves
Getting students to do something physical, even if it just means standing up and walking around is a great way to raise energy levels. This activity asks learners to organise themselves according to a certain criteria and then find out / share some information once they are organised.
This example is based on the fact that each Turkish city has a number (I work in Istanbul – 34) you could use any criteria – cities by alphabetical order, height, age, alphabetical order of the weekend activity they are looking forward to most…etc
i. Learners self-organise according to the criteria. This can generate a lot of good, natural language if conducted in English and be targetted towards a specific language point if the criteria is chosen carefully. The list of criteria is inexhaustible- cities by alphabetical order, height, age, alphabetical order of the weekend activity they are looking forward to most, which historical time would you have liked to live in…etc
ii. once in a line learners can be given a task related to the criteria – how tall is your partner? What is the most popular food in your partners city? Which historical period would you friend have liked to live in and why? How do you feel about that?…etc
5. Lateral Thinking
With lateral thinking problems you set a scenario and ask the learners to find a solution by asking yes / no questions.To fined the solution learners have to think around the problem. For example:
i. Board “A man walked into a cafe. He asked the waiter for a glass of water. The barman picked up a gun and pointed it at the man. The man said “thank you” and left the bar. Why?”
ii. The learners ask you yes/no questions – you answer yes, no or not important.
iii. You may wish to share the answer with a learner (or one may already know the solution) and they can answer the questions instead of you.
(Answer at the bottom of the page)
6. What can I use this for?
This activity encourages divergent thinking. Choose an everyday object – a pen, a paperclip, a fork… It may be related to the topic of your lesson.
i. Group learners.
ii. Set a 3-5 minute time limit. The groups must think of as many uses for the object as possible – conventional and unconventional.
iii. The winning team is the one with the most uses.
7. Ball Q & A
And finally another old favourite. If you don’t have a ball a scrunched up piece of paper will do or for even more fun use an imaginary ball. The questions could be open – ask anything you can or focused on a recent language point or topic.
i. Learners stand around in a circle (or stay seated if you want).
ii. throw the ball (or whatever it is) to a learner and ask a question. They answer and throw the ball to another learner and then ask the catcher a question….and so on.
The answer to the lateral thinking question is, of course, that the man had hiccups!