Jumping right into an English lesson is difficult for some learners. The quiet concentration necessary in an English class differs greatly from the raucous movement that usually occurs in the hallways. Upon arrival in class, students need to adjust to this vastly different environment and get into the learning mode. English teachers can help their students accomplish this goal by beginning their classes with simple warm ups. These engaging activities allow students to ease into English and prepare to delve into complex topics of study.
1. Board brush
Put Ss into two groups and split the board into two halves. Write on one side A-M and on the other N-Z. One group has to think of countries starting with one set of letters. One student from each group comes to the board and writes a country. They then pass the pen/chalk to the next student in their group who writes another country. Continue until everyone has had a turn or the groups have run out of ideas. Rub out any countries written in L1 and correct spelling of other countries where necessary. Allow Ss to make a written record of the countries now written on the board which will ensure that all Ss are starting at a more even level of knowledge than they would have done without the activity.
2.Find the similarities and differences
Put students into pairs. Tell them to try to find five things that they have in common using the structures: I am…(I am a boy. I am 16.Iam Polish .I am a student.) and My…is/are(My mum is a teacher. My bag is black.)This is also a good way to encourage peer teaching as stronger Ss will make sentences that they will have to explain or translate for their partner. Allow 2 minutes for students to try to find similarities, it doesn’t matter if they can’t think of five. Now join the pairs up into groups of four. Ss now have to repeat the process but this time using We are…or Our…is/are. Finally, elicit differences found in open class, e.g. I’m 15. He is 16. Our mothers are teachers. Their mothers work in a bank.
3.Throw the questions
Ss write two questions using the verbs to be which they could ask to other Ss in the class. One should be an open question and one a yes/no question. If possible, arrange Ss in a circle or at least have sitting so that they are facing as many other Ss as possible. Nominate one student to start. They choose a second student to ask a question to. At the same time they throw a ball or piece of screwed up paper. The second student has to catch the ball and answer the questions correctly. They then ask one of their questions to a different student. Continue the activity until all Ss have asked and answered at least one question.
This would be best if it were done on scrap paper so that Ss had their notebooks closed. As an alternative, ask Ss to turn to a clean page in their notebooks and tell them not to look back at their notes. Dictate family members but as anagrams and Ss, working alone, write down the letters as you dictate them, e.g. ioucsn (cousin) tgaurdhe (daughter), peenhw (nephew), ceine (niece). As soon Ss can’t refer back to their notes for this activity or it will be too easy.
The most common, and most easily implemented, English class warm-up is a journal. Teachers can easily implement journal writing by providing students with a spiral notebook or other bound writing piece. The teacher can place journal prompts on the board daily, or simply ask the students to write about events that are occurring in their life at that time. To ensure that journals are effective, teachers should set a time frame for response and clearly communicate their length and content requirements to students.
6. Mysterious Object Descriptions
Get students into the mood to learn by challenging them. Start off class by presenting students with an object that is not easily identifiable. Visit your local hardware store or a rummage sale and pick up some old or abnormal objects such as plumbing fixtures or antique machines. Ask students to start class by describing the object in as much detail as possible and hypothesizing a potential use for the object in question. After students have made their guesses, show the object’s true purpose to your students.
Begin class with a part-of-speech review. Copy a passage out of a textbook or class novel and give it to students as they enter the class. Once class begins, instruct students to highlight or circle a set part of speech in the passage. You could, for example, ask them to circle any nouns they find. After students have had the opportunity to seek out the assigned part of speech, go over the answers, allowing them to mark any words that they missed.
Put Ss into two groups or, in a large class, into an even number of groups. One group starts by saying a city, the next must return with the country that city is in and the first group must finish the rally by saying the nationality. If there are any err6ors or hesita66tions, the point is lost. the second group then continues with a new city. If possible, do this in two groups so that you are able to effectively monitor and correct.
9.Whose is it?
All Ss write down a telephone number on two pieces of paper (the same number on each). They keep one copy and you collect in the other. Re-distribute the numbers and make sure no-one has their own. Ss have to find out whose number they have by mingling and asking: Is your number …? The other student either answers Yes, it is. or says: No, my number is… As the game goes on, Ss may remember numbers and be able to say: No, that’s … ‘s number:
Put Ss into two groups. Choose one person from each group and read out a phrase from the previous lesson. Ss must decide whether it should take in, on or at. The first person to write the correct word on the board, wins a point. The two Ss then change places with another student from their group for the next turn. Examples:
(at) a party, school, home, a barbecue
(on) holiday, my left, my right
(in) the garden, the middle, the photo, a classroom
11. I’m sorry, I have a cold
Ss write down one question asking permission to do something. Put Ss into groups of five or six. Each student in turn has to mime their question because they have a bad cold and have lost their voice. When the other Ss have guessed, the next student acts out their question. Monitor and check that Ss are using grammatically correct English when guessing what the question is. When finished, elicit some of the most interesting questions in open class.
12.Mixed up messages
Write a postcard on the board as below:
We are staying in (2)____________. It is a/an
(3)_____________city and the weather is
(4)_____________. This morning we went to
Tomorrow we are going to (7) ______________.
Lots of love…
Put Ss into six groups and number them 1-6, to correspond to the numbers on a dice. Each group has to think of a word or phrase that could go into each gap (tell Ss that number 6 should be an activity not another place).
When Ss are ready, they choose one student from their group. The student from group 1 comes to the front and reads the postcard on the board. When they get to a gap, they throw a dice and, depending what number is shown, they ask the corresponding group for their word and write this in correct place on the board. This may lead to some strange postcards, e.g. We are staying in Rome .Yesterday we went to Buckingham Palace and saw the animals. Repeat the process with a student from the others groups.
Put Ss into pairs. Tell Ss that you are going to give them some tasks and, as soon as they have completed them, they should shout stop! If they have got the correct answer, they win a point, e.g. Name two things you can travel by beginning with the letter “C”. Ss shout stop! as soon as they can think of these. Elicit the answers and then give the next task: Name four places where you can stay on holidays. Name three things you would pack for a camping holiday.
14. Define and predict.
Have these words written on individual slips of paper: climate, weather; hotter; drier; cleaner; bigger; air pollution, water pollution, energy, plants, grow, population, survive, endangered. Ss work in seven groups and each group has two words which they have to think of definitions for. Ss should have an English monolingual dictionary to help them if possible. When ready, Ss form new groups of seven so that one person from each of the original groups is now in a game together. Ss take it in turns to define their words and the other Ss have to guess what the words is. When finished, Ss work together in their groups of seven to try to guess what the lesson will be about and what each of the words will refer to, e.g. We think it will be about the environment. Hotter – the world is getting hotter because of global warming. Elicit ideas and then allow Ss to open their books to check.
15 .Optimist or pessimist?
Dictate some questions to Ss who work alone to write their predictions, e.g. How much money do you think you will earn? How long will the Earth survive? What mark out of 100 will you get in your next English exam? What age will you get married?
Either as a whole class or, if numbers are too large, in smaller groups, Ss have to ask each other these questions and stand in order according to how they answered them, i.e. they start with the question about money and have to order themselves from the most optimistic (the person who thinks they will earn the most) to the most pessimistic (the person who thinks they will earn the least). When they are ready, ask Ss how much they think they willearn and what jobs they think they will have. It is meant to be a light-hearted activity so don’t worry if their answers aren’t entirely serious. Repeat the process with the other questions.
Tell Ss to draw a simple map of their country and, at each compass point (N, S, E, W, NE, NW, SE, SW) to draw a symbol representing the weather in that area. Ss should try to use a variety of weather types, even if it is highly unrealistic. Ss then draw a second, empty map and join up pairs. One student dictates the weather in their country and the other tries to draw the correct symbols in the correct places on their empty map. When finished, Ss swap roles and finally compare what the drew with the original pictures.
17. Nonsense poem.
Tell Ss you are going to read them two lines of poetry which contain several made up words. Ss must try to work out what part of speech they are. Dictate the words, brillig, slithy, tove, gyre, gimble, wabe. Read the poem and elicit the parts of speech: Twas (it was) brilling (adj) and the slithy (adj) toves (n) did gyre (v) and gimble (v) in the wabe (n). Now tell Ss close their eyes while you read the poem again. They should try to get a picture in their minds of what the words mean. Ss then discuss their ideas in groups of four and finally in open class. (this poemis from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.)
18. Random connections.
Ss need about three small pieces of paper each. On these they write a country, city, river, mountain or place in city, e.g. street, one word on each piece of paper . Once Ss have done this, collect them all in. On the board, write on/in/of. Now put Ss into groups of 4-5. One group choose one of the three words. Pick o8ut a piece of paper at random and read it to Ss. They have to make a true sentence about the place you read out using the preposition they have chosen, e.g. if they chose in and the place in London, they could say London is in England. If they chose on they might say London is on the River Thames. If they chose of they could say London is in the southeast of England. If other groups think the sentence is grammatically or factually false, they can try to correct it. Repeat the process with the other groups in turn.
19. What did I say?
Tell Ss you are going to dictate some sentences to them. They should finish the sentences so that they are true for them, noting down only their own word or phrase not what you read out. Make short pauses between the sentences to let Ss make up their mind.
If I leave my country, I will move to … I get annoyed about …I hate waiting for…Our school suffers from … When I go out, people sometimes stare at… I hope doctors find a cure for … On holiday, I made friends with …
Ss compare answers in groups of four, then try to recreate what you read out. Elicit full sentences and check the prepositions.
20. Sales pitch
Elicit five of the best places to visit in the Ss own country. These could be cities, seaside resorts, mountain resorts, etc. Now split the class into five groups and give each group one of the five places. Each group has to prepare a presentation to show that their place is the best place to spend a holiday. Remind them structures: It’s really peaceful/dramatic. What I like about it is the natural beauty. It’s the kind of place where you can relax. It’s the most unspoilt place I’ve ever been to. When finished, each group in turn comes to the front of the class and Ss vote on which place (apart from their own) sounded the most attractive.
21. Onion ring (if space allows, otherwise, a traditional mingling)
Tell Ss to write one question on any aspect of sport that they like, e.g. Do you like watching the Olympics? Do you play for a team? Do you like playing sports at school? How often do you go cycling? In an onion ring, Ss stand in two circles, one inside the other. Each person in the inner circles faces one student in the outer circle. Ss ask and answer each other’s questions and then Ss in the inside circle move round one place each. Those on the outside stay where they are so that Ss are now facing a different student. Ss ask and answer again and the process is repeated until Ss on the inside have returned to their starting point.
22. Board pelmanism
This requires you to make two sets of words on card, big enough to be seen by everyone in the room. One set should be nine Past Simple forms and the other should be the corresponding nine Past Participles. Example words: saw, gave, took, did, knew, forgot, drank, ate, began; seen, given, taken, done, known, forgotten, drunk, eaten, begun.
Stick these to the board, with the words hidden, in two sets of three columns and three rows, the Past Simple forms on the left and the Past Participles on the right. Ss work in two groups. The first group chooses one word from group 1 and one from group 2(e.g. row 2, column 1 and row 3 column 2). Turn these over so that Ss can see the two words. If they are from the same verb, give them tj the group who guessed them. If not, turn them back so that the words are hidden again. The idea is for Ss to remember where words are and make pairs so the group which concentrates hardest has the best chance of winning. When Ss have found all nine pairs, see who won, collect in the pieces of card and re-elicit all nine verbs, past forms and Past Participles.
23. Draw it!
Tell Ss they have 2 minutes to draw a picture. It can be of anything they like but there must be people in it and as many activities as they can show in 2 minutes .The pictures should not be drawn very carefully, simple stick figures will suffice. After 2 minutes, put students into pairs, making sure they haven’t seen each others pictures. One student covers their picture and takes a clean piece of paper. The other describes their picture and the first student has to draw what is described. When finished the Ss swap roles and finally show each other their pictures to see how well they were able to draw from the description given.
24. Parts of speech
Dictate sentences to Ss and ask them to say what part of speech certain words are. Ss work in small groups and put their hands up as soon as they know. Award a point for each correct answer. Example sentences: They create (v) (a lot of problems. He is famous for his creativity (n). Prices in the shops have been reduced (v). The reduction (n) wasn’t very big. He is a researcher (n). I’m very annoyed (adj). It’s not terrible but it’s an annoyance (n). We didn’t expect (v) to see you so soon. He didn’t live up to our expectations (n). There have been a lot of improvements (n) lately. The city is improving (v) all the time.
25. How many?
Ask a Present Perfect question using have you ever … which is interesting and unusual but which may also be answered yes by some Ss and no by others. Have you ever ridden a camel? Now put Ss into two groups. Each group must think of five similar questions. When they have thought of the five questions, they decide together how many of the other group they think will say yes to each question. They give you the five questions written down with their guess next to each one. Read out the questions and Ss raise their hands if they have done the things asked about. Make a note of the actual number saying yes and tell Ss whose guesses were the closest.
26. Anonymous advice
Each student thinks of a question to ask for a suggestion, e.g. about holidays, study, clothes. They write this on a piece of paper. Collect them all in and redistribute so that Ss don’t know whose question they have. If Ss have their own question, you should change it with someone else’s. Ss now write a suggestion in response to the question written. Collect them in again and redistribute once more. Ss add a second suggestion. Finally, place the papers on a desk and allow Ss to come and find theirs and read what the suggestions were.
27. Crazy signs
Talk to students about street signs that show what you must do(e.g. Stop), those that tell you what you mustn’t do(e.g. a speed limit sign means you mustn’t go faster) and those that tell you what should or shouldn’t do(e.g. a bumpy road sign means that you should drive more slowly).
Now put the students into groups of 4-5.Each group chooses a different place, e.g. school, swimming pool, cinema .The groups draw four signs that don’t actually exist but could be used in their place, e. g .No singing in class. The four signs must represent must, mustn’t, should, shouldn’t. When finished, groups swap papers and try to work out what the four signs represent. They write four sentences and then hand these back to original group to see if they are correct in their guesses or not. Elicit some of the rules and advice in open class.
28. What is the verb?
Put the students into six groups. Give each group a verb/verbs on a slip of paper: turn on/off, put on/take off, down load, print out, put in/take out, click on. Make sure that no other groups know what verb they have. Each group must think of as many nouns as possible that their verb(s) could collocate with. Each group then reads out their nouns, one at a time, and the other groups have to guess what the verb is.
However, the other groups only have one guess each so must decide whether to guess early or wait and risk another group guessing first.
29.That’s not mine!
Collect a pen from each person in the class and place them on a desk, preferably in the centre of the room where everyone can see them.
Nominate one student to come to the desk. Pick up a pen (not that student’s) and ask: Is this yours? Elicit the answer: No, mine is …(plus a comparative form) newer/cleaner/ darker. Whatever they answer, choose a pen which could be theirs and ask again. The student either replies: Yes, it is. or they must give another comparative sentence but using a different comparative adjective. Keep going until the student has his/her pen .That student now nominates a second student to come to the front .The first student plays your role, the new student has to make comparative sentences to identify their pen. Keep going until all the pens have been returned or you think that enough practice has been had.
30. Alien game.
Tell Ss you are an alien from a different planet. You speak very good English but don’t know much about the Earth. Start by introducing yourself and elicit from Ss that they should ask if they can help: Hello, can I help you? Say yes and ask Ss about a simple thing, e.g. What is a school? Ss give a definition and, whatever they answer (e.g. It’s a place where students go to learn.) ask: What do you mean by…( e.g. students)? The class give a new definition and, again, ask question using: What do you mean by…? Next time, deliberately mishear the students and ask: I’m sorry, did you say…? Finally, tell Ss that should offer to do something to make it easier to understand, e.g. Shall I take you to my school? I can take you to my school if you like.
Re-elicit the questions you asked and they asked and put Ss into pairs to do the same thing with a different noun. Finally, nominate one pair to act out their conversation in open class.
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