3 Fun and Easy Warm-Ups

My basic level students, Andreia and Flavia, are gaining comfort with me and with the whole experience of filming for YouTube. (See my Basic English playlist.) They start each lesson with smiles and willingness, but it certainly helps to warm up, and so I’ve had a fun time doing simple speaking tasks to get us all in the right frame of mind. I continue to post new lessons, so in good time some of the warm-ups we’ve done will be publicly available for other students and teachers to watch. I’ve fallen back on a few favorites, and put some twists on others.

  1. Now You See It, Now You Don’t (There is/are)
    I know other teachers have done variations on the game where you identify objects on a table. One option is cover a set objects with a cloth and then do the recall in the present tense: There’s a fork, a pen, and a pencil on the table. I brought a bag of household objects to our lesson. As I pulled them out, we named them. Some objects were familiar, but others were new. I threw in a hair elastic and a pair of chopsticks to balance all the office supplies. I also found some plastic utensils at home, so those were added to the bag. Good thing I did because the ladies needed to review knife, fork, and spoon.To review the past forms of BE, I decided on this sequence:
    – The teacher places several objects on the table. The students have a moment to memorize what’s there.
    – The teacher can take a photo to recall exactly what was on the table before removing the objects from sight.
    – The students then either take turns or work together to recall all the items: There was one knife. There were two pens. Etc.
  2. Like, Love, Enjoy  (verb + noun, verb + gerund/infinitive)
    A very simple ice breaker used in many settings, even far outside the ESL classroom, is to take turns addressing the group with everyone stating their name and one or two personal facts. I decided to use this basic format as an opportunity to get to know my students better and to make sure they could accurately use the verbs like, love, and enjoy.The fun challenge is to make it a memorization game:
    – The teacher starts by stating one things she likes. (I’m Jennifer, and I like chocolate.)
    – The first student repeats what was just said and then adds what s/he likes. (This is Jennifer, and she likes chocolate. I’m Andreia, and I like cats.)
    – The second student repeats the two facts previously said and then add what s/he likes. (This is Jennifer, and she likes chocolate. This is Andreia, and she likes cats. I’m Flavia, and I like the beach.) 
    – The pattern repeats for what we love, what we don’t like, and what we enjoy. You can add in what you hate as well if you wish.

    As the game goes on, it becomes challenging to recall all the facts previously stated. If you forget something, you can ask, “What do you like? What do you enjoy?” etc.

  3. Seeing the Good, Finding the Better
    As my students and I moved into comparatives and superlatives, we had fun giving our opinions about different things. Activities are less stressful when there isn’t a right or wrong answer. For example, is tea better than coffee or is coffee better than tea?- The teacher creates word cards in advance with things students can quickly compare to similar items (bananas vs. other fruits, coffee vs. other drinks, Friday vs. other days, the beach vs. other places, etc.)
    – The first student picks up a card and states one thing that’s better or one thing that’s worse: Bananas are good, but apples are better. OR Mondays are bad, but Sundays are worse.
    – The others can agree or disagree: No, I think apples are better than bananas. No, Mondays are the worst.
    – The next student picks up a new word card and the pattern repeats: opinion > agreement or disagreement. Make sure each opinion includes a comparative adjective.

    I chose to do one round with X is good, but Y is better and then a second round with X is bad, but Y is worse.

    For upper level students, the word cards can have more complex ideas: a dress code, failing an exam, getting 100% on an exam, spilling coffee on a report, winning $50 on a lottery ticket, missing your bus, etc.
    – Having a dress code isn’t good, but wearing a school uniform is much worse.
    – Winning $50 on a lottery ticket is great, but earning a big bonus at work is a lot better.
    The statements can become springboards into full discussions.

    Related posts:
    All about the Teacher, as suggested by Walton Burns (high beginner to advanced)
    Warm-up with food vocabulary (intermediate to advanced)
    Breakfast Club activity (high beginner to advanced)

    Photo credit: Window, Woman, Morning, Girl by Free-Photos. Retrieved from the Public Domain at https://pixabay.com/photos/window-woman-morning-girl-1148929/.

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