My Favourite EFL Classroom Warmers

- - Warmers

Involving students from the first minute of a class can be a challenge. Here, Nadia Zehni shares three of her favourite classroom warmers.

I always find the first ten minutes of a lesson the most difficult - it’s vital to capture students’ interest and involve them from the start. An effective warmer could make the difference between an alert and participating class, and a group of zombies who decide to catch up on the sleep they missed out on from partying the night before... (This comes from my experience of teaching teenagers on the holiday island of Malta!)

1. True / False
For a first lesson with a new group of students I usually use the True or False warmer. First I make sure the class know the difference between true and false, and can give me some examples of true and false statements. I then ask the class to write three interesting sentences about themselves on a new sheet of paper. Two sentences must be true and one must be false.

When they have finished writing their sentences, I ask the class to stand up and move the desks out the way so that they can mingle. Each student must find a partner, greet them and introduces themselves, say what country they are from, and listen to their partner’s three sentences. They must then guess which is the false statement. Once both students have attempted a guess, they move on to another person in the class and repeat this process.

This works really well to break the ice in a group of students that don’t know each other. It gives them an opportunity to introduce themselves, say what country they are from, and share some interesting information about themselves. I always participate in this warmer so that the students feel that they know something about the teacher too. You can follow this activity by discussing which sentences were the most original and which was the most interesting topic that was brought up.

2. Guess the Famous Person
The following warm up works well to lead into a topic on celebrity or fame and fortune. This exercise will require pictures of famous and recognisable celebrities (one for each student). Make the students stand in a line with their backs to you and stick a picture on their backs with some sticky tape. The aim of this warmer is to ask people questions about their celebrity and help others find out about theirs. The students will need to keep circling round, looking at the pictures on each others backs and helping out until everyone has found out who their mystery celebrity is. This works as particularly good practice for forming yes / no questions, or as a follow on from a lesson learning how to describe people.

3. Where in the world
This warmer works really well with an international group of students as they will be able to contribute more varied information and will spark discussion amongst themselves. Before students arrive I place a piece of paper with a name of a continent on each table. When the students arrive I let them deliberate and wonder about the continent. I then put the following headings up on the board: food, clothes, famous people, drink, animals (and any others you may want to add) I give them some time to brainstorm items to put under each heading for their continent. This leads into some good discussion about differences between countries, and stereotypes about countries within them.

These warmers should get the students to participate and lead in nicely from a previous lesson or into the coming one. If they are successful it will set the tone for the lesson and keep the students' interest more effectively.

Nadia Zehni has extensive experience teaching English as a Foreign Language in England, Malta and France. She is a regular contributor to, the world's busiest EFL community.


What do you think of this article? Add a comment »

Anonymous on 4 June 2007

These warm-ups are really great, because they are communicative. Also, they can be easily modified according to a group one's teaches. I've already used true/false and guess the famous person. I call the latter Find a Celebrity!

Maria on 5 June 2007

Nice activities. I agree with the author about the difficulties teachers usually have when starting a topic. I like these warmers ideas and I think I will put some into practise. These days in which the course is nearly finished, pupils need to make double effort to concentrate. I think these kind of activities can be helpful to grasp their attention.

Hamed on 12 June 2007

Greetings, I thank Nadia for her suggested activities. They are really exhilarating and fantastic. Teachers should always adapt themselves to motivate students and exholt them but what about the time allocated for the steps of the class. Should they be repeated activities every class? Thanks a lot. Hamed Hammad.

Denise on 22 June 2007

I think that this article is excellent. I can use these ideas in my class and also make some activities. Thank you. Warmers are very important as we have to involve them from the start.

Leti on 16 July 2007

It's a great idea to use those warmers not only with children but also with adolescents. I specifically liked "Where in the world" it makes students think and give personal opinions. You discover interesting things about their thoughts!!

Donna on 10 August 2007

Great advice for someone who is just starting on the path to becoming a tefl teacher. I'm off next month to Greece for a year and need all the advice and info I can get.

Anonymous on 28 November 2007

I really need warmers as I am a new teacher. It can be really difficult to attract the attention of an adolescent group especially when they are not interested in English.

Cedric on 3 November 2008

Nice one... here's one I regularly use. It's called the line quiz.
Split your class into two groups, get them to form two straight lines in front of you. Explain it's a competition. You then ask the first two students a question (based on whatever you want to review or to see if they studied or not) example: "what colour is my jumper?" The first of the two saying "your jumper is red" (or whatever colour it is) gets to go sit down. Once a line has no more student, it means they have won! It wakes them up and helps to make a quick revision... Hope you like it!

Antonio Bolaños on 10 March 2009

I have been teaching English for 19 years and I have always used warmers in my classes. They can help you set the scenario for the students. The book Five-minutes Activities (above) has been very useful and helpful to me. My students enjoy the class more and so do I.

Theresa on 5 June 2009

I have been teaching for 35 years. For new classes I step out of the class as I tell my students they should be ready to tell me the names of three of their mates and what they do. I just hang around the door for three minutes. The buzz within is a pleasant beginning.The classes in Ghana are usually composed of speakers of various local languages.

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