Don’t panic and use warm-ups :)


Sometimes when I begin my classes – or, which is even more stressful, a new course – I stand in front of my group and immediately know that something has to be done to wake the students up and make them work. It’s easy with the adults, as they usually realise it’s up to them to learn English, plus they are allowed to drink coffee, so sooner or later they’re up and running (depending on the caffeine, I guess). It’s not so difficult with younger children as they usually are too energetic πŸ™‚

But with the teenagers? Those sleepy, yawning, not really interested in learning teenagers? What can you do to wake them up, or make them switch off their mobile phones? Give them a nice warm-up, sure. But the problem with warm-ups is that they are hardly ever connected with the topic of the lesson and I don’t like ‘wasting’ time on games with no purpose – especially that my students tend to ask me ‘why are we doing this?’, and I have to answer πŸ™‚

What I do, then, is using warm-ups to introduce the topic of the lesson. However boring it sounds, it seems to work, so let me share some of my favourite ones πŸ™‚

  • 3-words picture

Students work in groups, I give them three words connected with the lesson (environment? panda/ water/ nuclear bomb) and they are to make a picture. Then they swap the picture with the other group and have to write a short description. The more abstract ideas for the pictures, the more fun they have, plus they brainstorm for the ideas that will be developed later during the lesson.

  • Find the 10 ways you may use an object

Group-work again. I give a group one object and make them come up with ten possible ways the object can be used (food? muffin/apple/pizza… don’t give them carrots, cucumbers and apple pies if you don’t want some obvious references πŸ˜‰ ) . Then we sum up the objects as a topic of the lesson.

  • Quick hangman

The never-ending love for this game totally puzzles me, but hey, if the students like it, why can’t I use it to introduce the grammar topic? Defining and non-defining clauses look better with a picture of a hangman, apparently.

  • Make a definition

The more advanced level of the students, the better. I simply pick up a phrasal verb or quite a difficult word that we will learn during the lesson and make a sentence with it – but be careful not to make the meaning of the word too explicit. The students have to write a definition of this word on a piece of paper. I collect them and then, when we encounter the word during the lesson, I check students’ definitions and the person who got it right gets a prize (whatever you see fit: choosing a game for the end of the class, a cookie etc.).

  • Explain the proverb/ idiom

I present a couple of idioms or proverbs connected with the topic of the lesson, make the students explain them and then make short dialogues using those expressions.

  • 20 questions game

Group-work. One student in a group is given a word (connected with the lesson, of course πŸ˜‰ ) and the rest of the students are to ask him 20 questions, but! – the answer can be only yes or no. The first group who gets the word may come up with the idea of the game for the end of the lesson.

  • Pantomime

I pick a couple of students and make them present the word given without saying anything. The rest of the group guesses the word. It may be the topic of the lesson, some words or phrases connected with the lesson – it all depends on a group’s proficiency level.

I hope it will help you just as it helps me, and our students will never be sleepy… hah, as if πŸ™‚


7 thoughts on “Don’t panic and use warm-ups :)

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