Warmers are a useful tool for tutors to use during their lessons. Immediately jumping into the material and language targets isn’t always the best strategy. A good warmer is a helpful way to get your students ready for class. Bring them out of their mindset they’ve had prior to that moment in the day and get them into the mindset of speaking English and their lesson. They are fun and casual activities that get students ready for English before going into the intensive learning of the lesson that day.
If you’re looking for some warmer ideas, here are some to get you started during your 1:1 lessons.
This one is probably the easiest, safest, and least difficult to explain to your students. During this activity, you should ask your students to recap the things they’ve been doing since the last time you had a lesson together. It’s easy because it doesn’t require any prep from you or much intensity from the student. However, you should make a point to ensure your student doesn’t get caught in routine answers (I went to school… I worked… I saw my grandparents…). You need to encourage them to vary their answers and elaborate to provide more details when they are speaking. Adhering to SMI (Seek More Information) to ask follow-up questions and get them to open up more is essential. Prep Level: NONE
Works For: All Students, Scale difficulty depending on student level
Time: 3-5 Minutes.
This is another very easy activity to bring into your lessons for a warmer. It’s very simple to bring together and students can easily get involved in the activity. All you need is to show students a photo (or several photos). Give your students a small bit of time to analyze the photo then afterwards, have them speak about it.
For lower level students, you may want to prepare a list of questions to get them speaking [What do you see?, What is the boy doing? What color is it?, etc]. For higher level students, your students can get more complex or you can remove questions entirely and just have them tell you a story about the picture. If you want to tie in a language target or theme from a prior lesson or the current lesson, it will certainly help as well. Make sure they’re speaking in sentences and give them some modeling and assistance if you feel they need it.
Prep Level: Minimal
Works For: All Students, Scale difficult pending on student level.
Time: 5 Minutes
1-Minute Speech Challenge
The objective here is to get your student to speak for at least a minute straight about a topic. This is a difficult challenge for a lot of students so ensure you give them plenty of encouragement prior and after the activity. Give your student several topics to choose from (sports, food, music, travel, etc). Allow them to select one of the topics. Once they’ve selected one of the topics, they have to speak about the topic for 1 minute straight without any breaks. If they stop before the time is up or if they take any long pauses, they lose the challenge. You can scale the complexity of the topic or speaking time based on the level of student to make it easier or more difficult. The goal is just for them to use as much of their speaking skill as possible. Prep Level: Minimal
Works For: Low Intermediate and Higher students.
Time: 3-5 Minutes
Another easy one to bring together for a lesson. This activity can be useful to gauge comprehension as well as knowing how to string and relate vocabulary together. It is simple and can be quite effective to see where they are in regards to their vocabulary ability. All you really need to do is provide an initial list of words. You then ask your student to associate a word of their own with your word. [Ocean -- beach, travel -- airplane, bears -- honey]. It’s simple, it gets your student thinking, and there’s not a whole load of prep which you need to put in to have it ready for class. Prep Level: Minimum
Works For: All Students, scale vocab difficulty for student level.
Time: 3-5 Minutes
This is a fun activity that will entertain and energize students for your lessons. Every student likes a challenge and if you can give them one which encourages them to be both accurate while allowing them to relax and have fun, you’ve got a useful activity on your side. All you need to do is compile a list of 10-15 tongue twisters and challenge your student to recite them as accurately (and quickly) as possible. It will make for a good challenge (and a good laugh)!
Prep Level: Minimum
Works For: High Beginners and Up Time: 3-5 Minutes
I Went to the Market and…
A classic exercise and one we all know how to play. This is a classic memory and noun recollection game. You and your student must go back and forth elaborating what you “bought” from the market. However, because it is a game of memory, you must add on to what was last bought. For example, the first person says: “I went to the market and bought cereal.” The next person will add on: “I went to the market and bought cereal and apples.” Then returning: “I went to the market and bought cereal, apples, and bread.” Each time it gets more difficult to remember, but it tests the student’s memory and vocabulary association. Play until you or your student can no longer remember what was bought. You can also use this with a different set of vocabulary as long as you make sure to contextualize the game in that way.
Prep Level: Minimal
Works For: Any Student
Time: 3-5 Minutes