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Classroom Warm-Ups

by Mark Beales

This month we continue our look at some great ways to get students interested in learning English.


Starting off a lesson well is crucial. Get them interested from the start, and they’ll stay focused. Here are some simple warmers that work for most age groups and abilities:


Storytelling: Divide the board into nouns and verbs. Ask students for five nouns and five verbs. Then get them to write a short story using all 10 words. Point out the stories must make sense, otherwise students will create any old mess just to include the target words. Be sure to use words students have recently learned.


Running dictation: Write 10 numbered sentences on a piece of paper and stick it somewhere outside the classroom. Students work in teams. One student from each team runs outside without pen or paper and memorises the first sentence. He/she comes back and tells his friends. They all write the sentence down. The next student shows the teacher the first correct sentence and can then run outside to read the second sentence. The first team to correctly write down all the sentences wins. If learning a grammar point, leave some target words out and make the team complete them. This is an energetic game that tests all kinds of skills (memory, spelling, teamwork). It also brings out the devious side in every student, so watch out for those looking to smuggle pens outside or those who want to nip out without showing you the last correctly-written sentence.


Drawing: Tell a story to students using plenty of adjectives and nouns. Students make notes in small groups. Students then draw the story on large coloured paper. This is a good game for younger learners.


Describing: In pairs, one student draws a bizarre-looking monster, but doesn’t show it to anyone. Students then use ‘have got’ to tell their friend what it looks like, and their friend draws what they are told. For example, “it has got three heads”. At the end, they check to see if the pictures look alike. Use this when you’re teaching ‘have got/haven’t got’ or the third person singular equivalent.


A Day in the Life of…: A good way to get students using their imagination. Base this on a character they’ve been studying, or use interesting examples such as an astronaut, Mr Bean, a policeman, etc. Set a word and time limit. With advanced group, ask students to imagine they are the character and get them to write in that person’s tone. This is called an empathic response.


Transl8 – Visit and write a message in SMS speech. Then get students to translate it back into proper English.



Teaching English: How to Teach English as a Second Language is written by award-winning writer Mark Beales (Lonely Planet, Insight Guides, Bangkok Post). It is available to download on Amazon, iTunes, Lulu and Kobo. Or you could have a look at Mark’s other ebook: The Ultimate Guide to Pattaya 2014.