Every lesson needs a warmer and there are few that go by that don’t have an odd five or ten minutes that need filling with something to keep your students on their toes or to give the class a change of pace.
We look at 7 easy warmers and fillers for the English language classroom.
Nice and nasty
This super-simple warmer is guaranteed to get your students chatting and is a great first day activity. Have students divide a sheet of paper into two columns, one they label ‘nice’, the other they label ‘nasty’. Tell them you’re going to read out a list of words, each of which they have to write in the column that expresses how they feel about it. Your list should include of a variety of people, places and things that are likely to divide opinion (for example, hip hop, spicy food, winter, Sunday evening, ironing, tattoos, English grammar, Michael Jackson, department stores). Once you have finished reading out the list and students have written the items down, they compare their answers in pairs to see how similar or how different their tastes are.
It’s news to me!
A great way to start a class that only meets once or twice a week is to board some simple headlines about major current news stories (Reds Take Trophy, New Planet Discovered, Cat Stuck Up Tree – whatever you think your students will have been following), along with some vocabulary that students might need to talk about those stories. In pairs, students first match the vocabulary items with the stories and then tell each other what they know about them. You can input language such as “Did you read about…?”, “Have you seen what’s been happening in…?” or “I heard that X has X’d again.”
You’ve been blooped!
Introduce your students to the nonsense verb bloop (it’s regular – she bloops, she blooped, she has blooped) and explain that they’ll need to use it in the game. Think of a simple, every day activity – ‘having a shower’ is always a good one to demonstrate with – but don’t say what it is. The idea is for the students to work out the activity by asking you questions with ‘bloop’ as a substitute. Do you bloop every day? (Yes!) Are you blooping right now? (No!) Do men bloop more than women? (I should think they bloop the same.) Do people bloop inside or outside? (Inside, usually, unless they’re at the pool.) Do you need any special equipment in order to bloop? (Absolutely.) Once they’ve worked out what your activity is, it’s their turn. You’ve been blooped! is a great way for students to practice question forms. To make it a tad harder, turn bloop into an irregular verb – bloop, blape, blopen!
Next up on our list of easy warmers and fillers is an activity that works great as a team game with kids. Board a simple word such as ‘meat’ and give the students a minute or two to come up with as many new words as they can from that word by changing one letter at a time. Meet – meat – seat – sent – went – bent – bend – bind etc. The team with the most words wins.
This old favourite is a fun way for students hone their powers of definition – a useful real life language skill when you don’t know the word for something in a second language. Divide the class into two teams. Set two chairs in front of and facing away from the board. One student from each team sits down – remember, with their back to the board – while their team-mates stand in front, facing the board. The objective of the game is for the standing students to define for their seated team-mates the words that you write on the board. Gestures are not allowed. The first ‘sitter’ to guess the word correctly wins a point for their team. Everyone takes turns to take the hot seat, and remember – if their own team is making a pig’s ear of the definition, they can always listen to the competing team’s attempt. Make sure you prepare a long list of words beforehand so that you can run the game at a lively pace.
Forget accuracy for this lively filler. It’s fluency you need if you’re going to do well. Tell your students they each have to think of a book or a film they like, and that the object of the activity is to summarise the story in under two minutes (steer clear of War and Peace or Lord of the Rings!). Demonstrate with a book or a film that you like yourself. It’s you against the students, so have one of them keep a track of the time with their mobile phone. If you manage to finish your summary before your two minutes are up, you win. For their part, they have to prevent you from finishing by interrupting you with questions about the things you are saying. You must answer these questions. What’s the name of the actor who plays the main character? Have you seen him in anything else? Who’s the director? Where did you see the film? How much did the ticket cost? How did you feel when you watched that scene? When you’ve done (you’ll almost certainly lose), put the students in groups and have them play against each other.
My buddy Billy loves his football boots
This traditional parlour game is bound to have your students scratching their heads in bewilderment as they try to work out the secret of what Billy likes and what he doesn’t. It’s best to let one of the students in on the secret before you start, just to get the ball rolling. Gives some examples of things Billy likes: cheese, tennis, pizza – and things he adores – Harry Potter, yellow berries, Snoop Dogg, the muddy Mississippi – and things that he’s not so keen on: blue paint, rubgy, pasta (although he does love pepper on his pizza). They can then ask you lots of “Does he like…?” questions until they’ve worked out what the secret is. Of course, the secret is that Billy likes anything with a double-letter in the name. Once a student had sussed it out, they mustn’t let on but should join in with their own examples of Billy’s beloved pottery, his or the silly green rubber balloons that he’s always been besotted by.
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