One of the benefits of teaching in an ESL class is that you can do many different activities in the classroom.
There are hundreds of games and physical activities available for you to use in every single lesson that you do. In fact, this is the perfect way to start all of your ESL classes.
It is not a good idea to go into a class and just tell the students to go to page 47 and then dive straight into whatever lesson you have to do for that day.
Start with a WARMER.
The great thing about this is that everyone loves it. The students love and so will you.
Having a warmer should be an essential part of your lesson plan. You should include a warmer in the lesson outline as a vital part to start the lesson.
Here I want to explain why you need a warmer at the beginning of your class — and then show you some ways to start the lesson each time.
Shall we get right into it?
Why Start with a Warmer?
There are many good reasons why you should start every lesson with a warmer.
I want to give you 8 reasons why every class begins with a warm-up activity and what it can do for your students, your class and you.
Having a warmer at the beginning of the class is a great way to give a shot of energy into the class. All the students arrive, shuffling their feet and with long faces, then you introduce a high-energy game or activity and it pulls their energy levels all the way up to ten.
Energy levels are then at their peak for when you get into the main meat of your lesson plan.
Plain sailing after that.
A warmer is an easy start to any lesson. You should try to make the rules easy to follow if it is a game. And keep the vocabulary or grammar levels a little lower than the main part of the lesson too.
This eases the students into the lesson and by the time they get to the main part of the class they have already adjusted to the subject you are trying to teach them.
All the wheels are turning in their heads and they can then deal with the more difficult subject matter.
Start easy and you make life easy for yourself.
Establishes the Lesson
By having a starter, you establish what the main theme of the lesson is without having to do much talking yourself. The students can pick up what the lesson is about by diving into the warm-up activity.
Get to Know Each Other
If it is the first class and all the students are new, this is the perfect way for them to get to know each other.
Having a high-energy warm-up activity is the perfect way to break the ice. All the students can very quickly get to know each other and this makes it very easy for you.
As the students are doing the warm-up activity they don’t regard it as part of the main lesson. They just think they are playing a game or watching a video and chatting about what they have seen.
While they are doing this, they have lowered their inhibitions and are being more open with you and the other students. This then carries on into the main bulk of the class and they have more confidence.
Trying to give students a boost in confidence is essential in the ESL class, so this works out very well for them — and you.
No Worries about Mistakes
In the warm-up activity, there is no need to worry about any mistakes.
If the students make a mistake, you can ignore it and just let the activity continue. The main idea here is to provide a real energy kick in the class. If you interrupt it by correcting the students, then you disrupt all the energy.
Let the activity flow and do not worry about mistakes.
Your warm-up activity should be part of your lesson plan.
Do not add this as a last-minute afterthought. Include it with the main part of your lesson and the goal of the entire plan.
If you do this, all the main part of the lesson plan is more likely to fall into place too.
Planning is everything.
First 5 or 10 Minutes
That is all you need for the warm-up.
This is enough time to get the students to stop using their own language and start using English.
Enough time to boost energy and get all the class into the main theme of your lesson.
Go to my article here for a list of warm-up activities to do in the class.
Different Ways to Start a Class
Let me give you a few examples of how to start your class. These are the main ways that you can have a warm-up activity.
There are hundreds of games you can find online and if you have technology in the classroom, then it is all the easier.
This is the best way to start your English class. It immediately gives all the students a real energy boost and they are then raring to go for the rest of the class.
Games are great because they are often physical and most students — especially if they are younger — respond well to this.
Bringing real objects into the class always gets attention from your students.
Something they can pick up and touch and use in the class is perfect for any ESL class. And if the theme of your class is about a category of vocabulary or a hobby or job, then real objects are an asset.
It really helps the students to get into the subject and it is easy for them to remember.
I wrote an article about realia here.
There can’t be a student in the world that would be unhappy to start the class with a video. Anything visual and it will go down well in the class.
You pull down the projector screen or bring in the TV and they all immediately relax. But it is also a great way to have a warmer.
There are thousands of videos online — YouTube is your friend! — that you can use as a warm-up in the class. And it leads in perfectly with the main meat of your class.
If you are doing a class on jobs, you can start with a video that features say three different jobs and the people talking about their jobs.
It leads perfectly into the rest of the class.
Another good way to begin, but maybe not as popular as the above ideas, is to start with some questions about the lesson topic.
This works well in a conversation class. So if the main theme of your lesson is crime, you could ask some simple questions about crime.
- What are very common crimes in your country?
- Have you been the victim of a crime?
- What are the punishments for theft?
Things like this can get the students thinking about the subject for the rest of the class.
I saved this one to last.
Unfortunately, few students appreciate reading in the class, no matter at the beginning or wherever. But it can really guide the students into the main part of your lesson.
It provides the students with all the vocabulary they need and other important phrases in English.
But like I said, reading is often not a popular task for many students.
If you start your English class with a strong warm-up activity, then the rest of your class is likely to go very smoothly. It is an essential part of your lesson plan so prepare well for it.
Do not go into the class with just a vague idea for any old warm-up activity.
Start well and the rest of your class will follow.
And there are so many different activities you can choose from. Go to my article on icebreakers to help you find useful activities to do.
There are also thousands of videos you can use courtesy of platforms like YouTube.
If the class is more advanced, then reading is always a good choice too.
But make the warmer a part of every lesson plan.
And of course — Let me know in the comments below.