Seven Reasons To Use Warmers

We all know that a great warmer can wake up and energise learners (and teachers) for the upcoming lesson. Beyond this key role warmers can also have other functions. As you prepare your warmers consider what else they add to a lesson.

Here are seven, other, reasons for using warmers.

1. To raise the learners interest and schemata in a lesson

A warmer based around the theme or topic of the lesson can prompt the learners to recall their knowledge of this area (their schemata) for upcoming learning activities. A warmer can also provide information to entire the learner into knowing more about a subject.

A learners schemata can also refer to their experience. If we are teaching adults or even teenagers there schemata of learning a language or even the classroom may not be positive. Warmers offer a way to introduce topics or language, that may be associated with negative schema, in an alternative and  positive way.

2. To revise and recycle language

Nobert Schmitt* tells us that while lexis can be learned incidentally. This though actually takes a lot of incidences of exposure – in the case of reading eight to ten exposures are needed to establish a basic word to meaning correspondence. More are needed when listening. Most course books do not provide this frequency of repetition of even key lexis. Warmers provide the opportunity to recycle and revise vocabulary in different, interesting and memorable ways.

Similarly, the way we teach grammatical structures does not always give us the time or opportunity to go back and revisit them. Once again warmers present an interesting, anxiety-free occasion to revisit previously covered language.

3. As a diagnostic opportunity

During warmers learners are often more relaxed concentrating on the task at hand rather than their language. These situations provide a fantastic opportunity for us to assess the level of our learners skills and knowledge without the anxiety of formal, or even informal tests.

4. To pre-teach or introduce new lexis and language

Warmers present a great opportunity to introduce the new vocabulary or language in an interesting and non-threatening way. You don’t even need to focus on this as target language but can present it passively as part of the warmer activity.

5. To change the focus of a lesson

Warmers do not always have to be at the start of the lesson. Teachers often have to change topics or move to completely different activities during a lesson. A warmer can help mark this change and help the learners refocus.

There are also times when lessons lose energy or focus. Having a warmer up you sleeve for one of these unplanned situations can be a life-saver.

6. To promote creativity and divergent thinking

Teachers I talk to never really seem to have the time in lessons to do the sorts of creative activities they would like to. There is always content that needs to be covered or a test to be prepared for. And as much as we would like to approach these from a truly different direction it is not always possible in our teaching contexts.

Warmers provide the opportunity to unleash the learners creativity and to unleash divergent thinking (because learning a language is a human, non-linear activity.

7. To encourage prompt attendance

If your learners expect the lesson to start promptly with a warmer that is not only fun but also contributes in some way to the learning in the lesson they may be more motivated to make an effort to be there at the start of the lesson.  

Over to you.

Can you add to my list? I’d love to hear your ideas


* This is a link to Norbert Schmitt’s website. It contains much of Norbert’s work. The information I have referred to can be found on slides 47-48 of his Power Point presentation on ‘Research Based Principles of Vocabulary Testing’ in Poland in 2013.

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