There is a saying, Start as you mean to go on. It is usually used when we start a new job or exercise regime, to make sure you start with the attitude and motivation that you want to carry through the whole project. But it can just as easily refer to the beginning of an English as a Foreign Language lesson.
We know the importance of having good rapport with our students in order to create an environment in the classroom conducive to learning. We understand we should get to know our students on a personal level – as individuals who have lives outside the English classroom – so that we can develop this rapport. This knowledge helps us plan appropriate activities for our lessons.
An activity which is very important in our lessons is the lead-in. Many teachers plan warmers as well as lead-ins – one to wake up the students and introduce them to English and the other to introduce the topic – and this can work fine, but the warmer and the lead-in can be one and the same thing.
Ideally, at the beginning of the lesson, we want to make sure our learners are settled in the classroom and their English brains turned on. However, we also want to introduce them to the topic of the lesson, not only in terms of the subject matter but language related to it as well.
Here are ten easy peasy warmers for the EFL classroom that will do just that.
Ask a Question
Questions are a great way to start a class. The only way you need to prep for them is to think of appropriate questions. Plus, they are versatile in that you can write them on the board, project them, or dictate them to the students. All you need to do is come up with a few open-ended discussion questions related to the topic. The students can then discuss them in pairs or groups and after a few minutes, you can get feedback as a class.
Ask a Question II
A spin on the usual teacher-questions is to give the students time to come up with their own questions. For example, you tell the class the topic of the lesson is holidays and ask them to think of five questions they would like to ask their partners about their holidays. Be sure to give them a few example questions to help them come up with ideas, and also to monitor to make sure all the questions are grammatically correct before they ask them.
Back to the Board
It’s always a nice change to start a class with a game (rather than ending with one) and this one works well to introduce topic-related language. Put the students into groups and arrange them so that one student is sitting with their back to the board. The teacher writes a word on the board and the other students in each group must describe or explain the word to the student with their back to the board. The point of the game is to guess the word the fastest. Once someone has correctly guessed the word, the students change seats to give another student a turn. Just remember not to give them words that are too difficult – this is just a warmer!
Read more: 5 Games for Adult Learners of English
Brainstorms are quick and easy. Write a word on the board, either the subject of the lesson or a word related to it. Ask the students if they know any words, terms or sayings related to it. Encourage them to call out the answers. There are no right or wrong answers so accept any and all answers.
Another option is, instead of calling out the answers, in pairs or groups the students write down as many words, terms, or phrases in a minute. When the minute is up, get feedback from the groups to find out what they wrote down. If more than one group has the same word, they must cross it off their list. In the end, groups count how many unique words they were able to think of.
Similar to brainstorms, mind maps require students to think of words or phrases related to the topic and draw a mind map to record them. A mind map is a colourful connection of words that shows the relationships between them. It can include words but also pictures – students can use anything which will help them remember the language. This is a nice activity for pairs to brainstorm words together but create their own individual mind maps.
Write down five or so words on the board. Ask the students to rank them in a specific way. For example, if the topic is food, write down five foods on the board and ask them to rank them from their favourite to their least favourite. They can do this individually and then compare their answers in groups and as a class.
Images are always a great conversation starter. Think of a few famous people who relate to the topic at hand and source images of them. Either print them out to stick on the board or project them. Ask the students to discuss in pairs or groups who they think the people are and how they might be connected. In other words, if the topic is global warming or the environment you could choose Leonardo di Caprio and Greta Thurnberg. This works so well because many times we know people’s names but we couldn’t recognize them if we saw them.
Similarly, you can show a quick video clip. Don’t introduce the clip in any way (because this is just the lead-in, not a major part of the lesson), and ask the students afterward to discuss what they think the topic of the lesson is.
Read more: Using Video in Your TEFL Class
Come up with a few general knowledge questions related to the topic. Put the students into groups and use the questions for a quiz. If you find that the students are struggling with the questions, give them a few multiple-choice questions to help them. Even if the students don’t get the questions right, doing the quiz will make them discuss the topic naturally.
Draw Me a Picture
Write the topic of the lesson on the board. The students must draw a picture of whatever comes to mind when they think of the topic. If you want, you can play music while they are doing this. After a few minutes, the students can share their pictures with their partners or groups and explain how they relate to the topic.
Remember: even though the warmer is the first thing you’ll do in the lesson, it should be the last thing you plan. So instead of fretting over which warmer you’ll use, you can use one of these ten easy peasy warmers for the classroom which will have your students awake, engaged, and ready for your lesson!