Standing at the front of a class full of students you’ve never met before can be daunting and nerve-racking. Students respond when they (and the teacher) are comfortable in the classroom. One of the best ways of ensuring you have a good start to class and settle those nerves is to start the class off with some fun ESL warm-up activities (also known as warmers).
The aim of ESL warm-up activities is to ensure your students are comfortable with you and feel safe in their English learning environment. Don’t worry if within these games the students don’t produce much spoken English – they will in the remainder of the lesson!
These ice-breakers will be sure to get both you and your students laughing, comfortable and ready to learn – and a great way to get to know each other!
The Hug Game
Approximate Time: 5-10 minutes
The objective of this game is to develop good relationships between the students and teacher. The students will feel comfortable with each other as well as with you. It can be played with classes of any age – especially good for young learners but also a great way to get older classes on their feet and laughing (although they will never admit they enjoy it).
- (If teaching a young class) review numbers with them from one to ten; count students, fingers, hands, eyes, tongues, crayons… just to get familiar with the counting.
- Demonstrate what to do when playing the game. Shout out a number (probably two) and run to a child and hug them, most likely to a roar of laughter.
- Shout out numbers from one to how ever many students are in the class and watch as they gleefully attempt to hug everyone around them.
Two Truths One Lie
Preparation: Prepare some statements relating to the lesson’s target vocabulary
Approximate Time: 10-15 minutes
In this game, the aim is to encourage the students to think about specific lexis and analyse what they hear. Students take it in turns saying three things about themselves; two of them should be true, and one of them a lie. The other students then have to guess which statements are true and which are not.
- Tell the students three things about yourself to demonstrate the rules. Make sure one of them is obviously a lie; such as I can become invisible, or I own my own private jet.
- Ask the students which statements they think are true and which is a lie. Students then take it in turns to tell the class their statements. You can even put them in pairs to give more control to the students and simply oversee their progress, then ask them what their partner lied about.
This warm-up activity can be modified in various ways. Young learners can guess which flashcards are behind your back (2 fruits and one toy), you can use it to review tenses (what you have done/will do) and use it to start discussions with older learners by using target language from the lesson.
The Quiet Game
Approximate Time: 5-7 minutes
The aim of this game is to make the students feel comfortable and get them laughing. Perfect for a new class of pretty much any level.
- (Demonstrate with a Teaching Assistant or strong student first). Put the students into pairs.
- After three, the students turn to face each other and pull a funny face.
- The students who can manage not to laugh are the winners of the game.
This game is great for young learners particularly, you can review numbers, emotions or mime actions. You can play it in pairs so the whole class can watch or leave them to play by themselves. You can also ask some strong students to be the ‘teacher’, by calling out numbers, or target language for the students to listen to.
The best part about ESL warm-up activities is that you can also have fun and really get moving too! These warmers are easy to do, and you can use them in almost any kids class. If you think teaching English sounds fun, and you’re up to the challenge, you can always fill out an application to teach with EF and try them for yourself.
Post by Jaye Plant, EF English First Shanghai
Jaye is a keen writer with an obsession for travel. When Jaye is not teaching, she can be found around Shanghai, exploring new places and feeding her coffee addiction. Read more from Jaye on her blog itchyfeet-blog.com.