Published 13th October 2020

warmers for the tefl classroom 2

Warmers for the TEFL Classroom – No matter how excited you are to be in the English as a Foreign Language classroom, it is your students who need to be enthusiastic in order for your lessons to be successful. So it is vital that you make sure your students are interested and engaged in your lessons. This should be done from the moment your students walk in the classroom, which means a good warmer is essential for your lessons

Read more: How to Promote Motivation in the EFL Classroom

Why are warmers so important?

Your EFL lesson might be straight after lunch, at the end of the day, or even in the evening after a full day of work, so your learners may be tired or distracted. They may be thinking about work or the lesson they have just come from or how they would rather be having a nap, so it’s up to you to help them leave their lives at the door, switch on their English brain and focus on their lesson. 

A warmer has the ability to do all these things, provided it is appropriate and relevant. Warmers can be used in a number of ways:

  • to acclimatize learners to English 
  • to refresh and energise students
  • to relax students and make them feel comfortable
  • to lead in to the topic of the lesson
  • to revise previous lessons

Not surprisingly, we need to use a warmer at the beginning of every lesson. It doesn’t have to be more than a few minutes, and you can always do more than one, but it is necessary to have some kind of activity which will accomplish one of the above aims. 

Read more: Revision Activities for the EFL Classroom

Remember that a warmer should be engaging and communicative, meaning that it should be an activity which involves the learners speaking to each other, not to the teacher. It should be interesting and fun, and can even involve movement or a game. Most warmers are flexible in that they can be used for any age and level, though you might need to adapt them to your particular learning situation.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, here are ten of our favourite warmers you can use in the EFL classroom.

Two truths and a lie

The students must write down three statements about themselves. Two statements must be true and one must be false. Do a demonstration so that the students understand that the false statement shouldn’t be too obviously false. The students then mingle and tell each other their statements and they must try to guess which is the false statement. 

Find someone who

This is a very popular activity which works as a practice activity as well as a warmer. You will need to prepare a few statements which begin with Find someone who. For example, Find someone who can speak more than two languages; Find someone who has a sibling; Find someone who likes ice cream. Organise the class so that the students have different statements. They need to mingle and ask the appropriate questions to find out the people who satisfy the statement. This is a great activity because you can tailor it to any particular language structure you want to revise or topic you want to talk about.

Hot seat

Arrange the students in groups so that one person is sitting with their back to the whiteboard but facing their group members. Write a word on the board. The students facing the board must describe the word and the student in the hot seat must guess what the word is. The first group to guess the word correctly wins a point. The groups then change seats so that a new student is in the hot seat. For more advanced classes you can write phrases or even whole sentences. 

Make a line

This warmer involves the learners lining up according to different criteria. For example, the teacher says Line up from youngest to oldest, or Line up from who woke up the earliest this morning to who woke up the latest. As you can see, you can use virtually any reason for them to line up, as long as whatever you choose means that they have to communicate with each other in order to complete the task. You can use more than one instruction so the warmer can extend for as long as you need it to.

The beanbag game

Make sure you have a few beanbags (or balls) available. Put your students into groups of five or six; each group must stand in a circle. Choose a topic, such as food, or cars, or a letter, or a word class, such as adjective. One student throws a bean bag to another student. As they throw they must say the name of the person they are throwing the beanbag too and a word relating to that category. For example, Steve, pizza. Steve then catches the bean bag and throws it to another student and says their name and another word related to the topic. For example, Lucy, apple. To make it harder introduce another bean bag into each group so they are juggling two at the same time. This will make them have to think more quickly.

Word scramble

Choose a few words which are familiar to your students, usually which relate to a topic which has recently been discussed in class. Write them on the board but scramble the letters. For example, happiness could be ssipnphae. Put the students into pairs or teams. They must unscramble all the words on the board as quickly as possible.

20 questions

Write the names of celebrities on pieces of paper. Give a paper to each student but they are not allowed to look at it. They must hold the paper to the forehead so the other students can see the name written on it. They need to ask their classmates questions to find out who they are, but they can only ask yes/no questions. For example, Am I a woman? Am I a singer? Do I live in England? They continue asking questions until they can identify themselves.

Talk to me

This is a very easy, no-prep warmer. All you have to do is write a few questions on the board relating to whatever topic you are about to discuss in the lesson. For example, if you are talking about travelling, your questions could be When did you last go on holiday? Where did you go? What is your favourite holiday destination? Do you prefer to travel by yourself or with family or with friends? The students must ask each other the questions and discuss their answers. 

Changing places

For this warmer you need to be able to arrange your students so they are sitting or standing in a circle. One student stands in the middle of the circle and calls out an identifying characteristic and if a student has that characteristic they need to change seats with someone else who does too. For example, Change places if you are wearing red or Change places if you have brown hair. However, the student in the middle must try and steal a seat from someone in the circle. The student who then doesn’t have a seat must be in the middle. Even though a warmer only needs to be a few minutes long, they are a very important part of your lesson. Don’t forget to consider your warmer when you are planning your lessons, as a warmer can make or break your lesson!

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