TEFL warmer ideas

Any TEFL course will tell you how important it is to start each class with a warmer. As well as being fun, warmers are a great way to review concepts covered in earlier classes. With a new student, a warmer can be a good way of discovering their level and their VAK learning style. In group classes, warmers are useful ice-breakers, which will make teamwork easier later on in the class. Below are twenty warmers and the VAK learning styles they’re useful for.

Whiteboard activities

Most online teachers will agree that the whiteboard is the best possible teaching prop. It is extremely versatile and particularly useful for visual learners. Here are some of my favourite whiteboard warmers.

Describe a picture

This is a very versatile warmer that can be used to practice sentences, vocabulary and pronunciation. The picture can be of anything so this can be made relevant to whatever your student has been learning.

Draw a picture from your instructions

This is especially good if for students learning shapes, measurements and directions. Think of an animal or a game and tell your student how to draw it. Your student can guess what it is from their drawing. This is good for auditory, as well as visual, learners.

Make a poem

This one is even more fun if nonsense poems are allowed. Write a poem together and, if the student finished their lesson early, let them illustrate it. This is especially good for teaching synonyms. It is also useful for auditory learners. You can make it more relevant to visual learners by writing a poem about a picture.

Replace a word in a sentence with another one and they guess the original word

If you’ve been teaching word classifications, this is a fun way of reviewing what you taught in the previous session.

Write out a long word and make shorter words with the letters

Enormous can become mouse, run, snore, etc. This is a very versatile game and a good reading or vocabulary test.

Pick a letter and name as many words starting with it as you can

This is a good way of practising the alphabet and reviewing vocabulary.

Hangman

This classic game is excellent for practising spelling and vocabulary. Variations for those who find it too gory include spaceman, snowman and erasing petals from a flower.

Write a word, the next person needs to think of a word starting with that letter

A good way of practising vocabulary, this is a particularly fun activity for group classes.

Mix up poetry – say one line for your favourite poem, then they say the first line of their favourite poem, etc.

Write down the results and see what you end up with!

Two truths and a lie

There are many variations of this game. You can focus on a concept the student has been learning, something you’ve been reading together or some personal facts about you. The student needs to guess which two things are true and which is the lie.

Sentence scramble

Write some words on the board and ask your student to make a sentence with them. This is useful for teaching grammar and sentence structure, as well as testing vocabulary. Word scramble is a fun variation.

Write a simple sentence, ask where the adjective/article, etc. would go

Write a story about a picture

Verbal activities

Verbal activities are particularly good when working on the student’s listening skills, or when the student is an auditory learner. With technology being as imperfect as it is, it’s always a good idea to have some activities that don’t rely on a whiteboard or a working webcam. That way technological emergencies don’t have to ruin a class. I’ve listed some of my favourite verbal activities below.

Tongue Twisters

Tongue Twisters are a fun way to practice pronunciation and fluency. Often you will make a mistake too, which will be reassuring for your student. This is good for kinaesthetic, as well as auditory, learners.

Find some EFL tongue twisters here: https://www.learnenglish.de/pronunciation/tonguetwisters.html

Name things from a category, e.g. fruit, animals

This a good vocabulary test. It can also lead on to other activities, like a discussion about their favourite things, making sentences from words or drawing pictures.

Write one line of a story each

This activity is very good for practising sentences. It is particularly useful in group classes. You can also use this one to identify students’ levels if there is more than one child in the class.

Read a line from a book or poem and they guess which one it is

This is a great one if you regularly read together in class, or discuss what the student is reading. It encourages the student to read in English outside of lessons, which will be fantastic for their vocabulary and confidence. They could also read from their favourite book and you could guess what it is.

What’s in my hand?

Hold something in your hand so that your student can’t see it. Start to describe it and let your student guess what it is. Variations include “what’s on my desk?” or “what’s in my kitchen” and are good for teaching things like household objects, clothes and food.

Physical activities

Sometimes a child might find it difficult to sit still for the entire class. Alternatively, the child might be very tired and need to do some physical activities to wake up a little. If the class is longer than twenty five minutes or so, your student might benefit from having “breaks” in which they get to move around and do something comparatively easy for them, while still practising their English. Here are some of the activities I use in these cases.

Find five yellow things

Particularly good for kinaesthetic or visual learners, this one a lot of fun. The student needs to find five things of a specific colour, five toys or five books about animals. To lengthen this warmer, ask the student to say which of their items is their favourite and why, or tell you three things about one of the items.

Stand up/sit down

Say “stand up if…” and “sit down if….” You could add other instructions like “touch your noise if” and “jump up and down if” to make the game more fun. You could concentrate on concepts you’ve been learning (“stand up if apple starts with A) or person information (“stand up if you don’t like peas). In group classes, you could let the students make the statements.

Charades

This classic game is a great way to get your student moving around. Ask them to act out a word you’ve recently learned, and then guess what it is.

Teacher says

A TEFL variation of “Simon says”, this game is very useful for reviewing body parts, verbs or spelling.

What are your favourite warmers? Is there one you use often?

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