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Lesson Warmers

(by Craig Wealand)

Some tried and tested (sometimes successfully) ways of warming and waking up you and your students. I’ll leave you to decide on level suitability. Many thanks to those who have passed these ideas on to me over the years. As with bad jokes, it’s often difficult to trace the source.

(S = student SS = students T = teacher)

1. Memory Test

Pairs. SS look very carefully at the room and the people in it for 1 minute. 1 S closes his/her eyes. Other S asks questions.

2. How Was Your Weekend?

Boring when it’s asked every Monday, but give SS the identity of a famous person on a slip of paper (or let them think of their own). In pairs SS ask questions and try to guess the other’s identity based on what they did over the weekend.

Alternatively, brainstorm what they think the King of Spain did, or Madonna, Harrison Ford, Mickey Mouse, Brad Pitt etc.

3. The Room Is The World

Tell the SS that the wall with the whiteboard on it is North. Ask them what the opposite wall is. “South?” , fantastic, and this wall? “East”, and this? “West”. Good. So if this classroom is the world, where is Spain? And France? What about Canada? Tell SS to stand up and go and stand in a country they’ve always wanted to visit. Without moving they ask each other where they are, and why they’ve always wanted to go there. They’ll have to shout across the world at distant SS.

4. Chain of Words

T reads out a list of words, and SS can join in by supplying a word once they’ve spotted

(or think they have) the connection. Do you know?

Carpet, train, never, rubbish, heavy, yellow, weather, reason, nuisance, end, drip, pencil, letter, respect, trip, painting, gallop, print, talking, go, operation, love, England, dark, kitten, nurse, engineer……….

(They all begin with the last letter of the previous word)

5. Find The Pattern

The teacher’s chair is the ‘Hot Seat’. Send a S outside the class to think up questions for his/her classmates. Give the rest of the class a pattern. They must use this pattern to answer questions when the S outside comes back in and starts asking things while sitting in the chair. For example:-

Answer only using three words.

Say ‘yes’ first, then say whatever you like.

Say what you like, but you must touch your nose when you answer.

Only answer using adjectives.

Repeat the question, then answer it any way you like.

Touch your ear.

Begin with ‘Erm..’

Cross your legs……etc.

Can the S guess the pattern?

Now the T leaves the class, and the SS think up a pattern for him/her to guess.

6. Don’t Say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’

Put a S in the aforementioned hot seat. The rest of the class (including the T) fire questions at the S to try and get him/her to say yes or no. A demonstration by the T may help for a lower level class ( ‘I don’t think so’, ‘that’s true’, ‘that’s not quite right’, ‘ ‘ah huh’, ‘sometimes’, ‘I do’ etc.)

7. Three Wishes

SS write down three wishes. SS get up and mingle until they find someone with a matching (or similar) wish. Then they sit down in pairs and talk about it .

Variation: Two bad experiences. The last seven things you did before leaving your flat this morning. Places you’d visit if you won three plane tickets.

8. Body Spelling

Groups of three, four or five .

SS think of a word then pretend they are the letters of the word.

SS stand up in front of the class and mime the word. The rest of the class has to guess which word is being spelt.

Caution! Know your students. Not good on the first day with a class of Japanese beginners.

9. Hidden Topic

Write a list of different subjects on small cards or slips of paper (e.g. Tennis, computers, shopping for food, traffic, beer, suits and ties, cycling, babies). Show a subject card to one S and start an informal chat with the S without naming the subject on the card (circumlocution). Other SS write down the subject on paper (without the other SS seeing) when they think they know what it is. If they’re correct, they can join in the chat.

10. Class Reaction

A S is in the ‘Hot Seat’ and talking about his/her favourite subject, hobby, last weekend or what they did during the holiday. S has his/her back to the board and must not turn around. T writes a word on the board and the rest of the class reacts to it, eg. Happy; sad; bored; interested; energetic; emotional; Italian; Japanese, English etc.

The speaker, of course, has to guess the word from the class reaction to it.

11. Spelling Dictations

Dictate whole sentences letter by letter. SS divide up into words and punctuate. (Good for revising/introducing phrases and course book texts.

12. The Teacher Can’t Read

T reads aloud and makes mistakes. SS correct. (see ‘cheating dictation’)

13. Running Dictations

SS in pairs. One sitting with pen and paper, while the other runs to the opposite wall, reads a few words, and runs back to dictate (and spell) to his/her partner. Which pair can finish first with least mistakes? (T can obstruct and hold fast SS to prolong the activity!)

14. Cross Purpose

SS in pairs. Hand out topic cards, one to each S (‘fruit’, ‘getting up in the morning’, ‘discos’, ‘the beach’, ‘petrol’). SS start speaking and have to guide the conversation back to their topic. After a couple of minutes stop the activity to see if they’ve guess each other’s topic. Change topic cards.

15. Getting Your Line In

Give SS slips of paper with conversation gambits written on them. Here is an example list, but we’re really looking for conversational expressions which wouldn’t normally be found in course books:-

Absolutely, I couldn’t agree with you more.

You must be joking!

How can you say that?

To be honest ,I can’t see that myself

I really think you’re missing the point completely.

But then again, there’s another side to it.

Of course, another way of looking at it is……

It seems to me you’re rather biased in your opinions.


That might be true elsewhere, but not in this country.

I really don’t think you understand the complexities of the situation.

So what you’re saying is…

I’d never have thought that you know.

I think that’s a fair point.

Can I come in here for a second?

It’s funny you should say that……………..etc.


SS speak on a given subject for a few minutes , e.g. fashion; German cars; George W. Bush: The Middle East conflict; seafood; ‘House’ music; smoking etc., and try to slip their line in without the other S noticing. Ask at the end what their partner’s line was.

The lines can and should be carefully selected for level and register, but not pre-taught. At least not in the same lesson.

16. Five Things Beginning With ‘F’

Each S writes five things beginning with ‘F’

SS are put in pairs to define their words as quickly as possible.

First pair to finish wins. Give them another letter.

17. Spelling Race

Two teams. One S from each team stands at the board with a board pen. T holds up a piece of paper with a word on, so that the two SS at the board can’t see it. The teams shout the spelling to their team mate at the board. The first S to correctly spell the word scores a point. Rotate SS.

18. How Are You Feeling?

SS are given a long, thin strip of paper, and write a sentence (12 to 16 words?) describing how they feel at the moment. Give out scissors so that they cut up the strips into individual words. SS shuffle the words and leave them in a pile on their chair. They change places and re-arrange someone else’s sentence. Early finishers can change again or write the sentence in L1 to sensitise to word order.

19. Favourites

Divide the board into four. In one section draw a picture of your favourite food (or just write it!), in another your favourite country, in the third your favourite book, and the last your favourite person (famous or otherwise).

Elicit questions from SS as to why you’ve drawn these on the board. When you arrive at ‘favourites’, maybe SS have some questions for you. SS choose their own favourites and discuss in pairs.

20. What’s My line?

Give SS a profession on a slip of paper (or get them to think of one). Either in the Hot Seat (open class), or in pairs, SS try to guess the profession without asking more than twenty questions. SS must ask yes/no questions e.g:-

Do you wear a uniform?

Do you work at night?

Do you use a gun?

Do you wear a hat?

Are you a soldier?


SS only answer correctly formed questions. A small bell may help here for re-phrasing and soul-searching.

21. Class Story

T starts by feeding in one line, e.g. ‘Mary was walking home late last night….’

SS continue to add to the story one by one around the class.

22. Complete The Dialogue

SS complete a dialogue in pairs using their imagination. Then they act it out in front of the class. Which dialogue was the best? (vote)



Ben My God!



Ann A big red one




George In the car park, I think.



Sharon Thirty-seven pounds fifty!

23. Guessing From Context

SS guess a nonsense word by using the context of the sentence.

Can you turn the zong on, it’s cold in here?

This food can’t be re-zonged?

My wibble’s not working, so I had to take the bus.

24. Half Dictation

T dictates half a sentence, SS complete by themselves and read out at the end.

As soon as she walked into the room…..

I’m having a lot of trouble deciding….

One Saturday morning in late summer….

If you want to lose all of your friends….

All through history, people have…..

Nobody knows who really….

If you climb to the top of a high mountain…..

I believe that everybody should….

They all started laughing because….

SS check spelling with each other, then with T.

You could also stick the sentence halves on SS backs, get them to mingle and copy them down. That should wake them up!

25. Dad’s Visit

Tell the SS that your Dad’s come to the school, and he’s going to answer questions for ten minutes. Get them to write down any questions they’d like too ask him about you. T checks question forms then tells the SS that he’s/she’s going outside to send Dad in. T then comes back in as his/her Dad (a disguise would help- old jacket, pipe, hat etc.). SS ask questions about T. (They’ll probably laugh at first, but it’s surprising how quickly they’ll imagine it’s your Dad they’re talking to.

If you’ve found this list useful, please send us your classroom ideas. If they’re any good, we’ll put them on the web page and share them with the world!

Craig Wealand

La Mansión del Inglés.
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