So far in my experience teaching English to children I’ve learned that starting the class with a warm up activity is a good way to heighten energy and interest. I teach at a private school where children come after their regular school hours for additional English lessons. This means they are often tired, hungry, and just want to go home. Warm ups are a fun way to wake up the kids and get them excited to learn. Here are 5 warm ups I’ve had the best results from.
1. Simon Says
My students love to play Simon Says and often beg me to play it. It’s a simple game that I’m sure most people know, as I remember playing it many times in elementary school. One person is Simon and they give instructions to the group to do certain things, the catch is that the students can only follow the instructions when Simon says “Simon says..”. This is fun for the students because they get to move around the room, and it’s a good exercise in English because they have to pay attention to the English words and pronunciation of them.
Another game my students love. This is like hangman except there is a staircase of ten steps drawn from the top left corner of the whiteboard or blackboard to the bottom of it. At the bottom of the steps draw a shark – I like to draw the shark doing or wearing something different every time. The students guess the letters of the word, and if they are wrong the letters have to be drawn on the steps. They only have ten chances because after that they are eaten by the shark at the bottom of the steps! My youngest six and seven-year-old students especially love this game, and they take the risk of being eaten by a shark very seriously. The advantage of this game is of course the fact that the students have to think about spelling.
This game can be done two ways. The first way is to get the students in a circle, give them a category (e.g: animals), and get them to each say a different word in this category. If they repeat a word or take more than five seconds to say a word then they are out. The second way is to divide the class into two teams then, on the board, write 4-6 categories (e.g: fruits, vegetables, objects, clothes, animals, school, summer) which they have to copy down on a piece of paper. Once they have copied the categories down give them one letter. They then have to find a word for each category that starts with the given letter. The team that finishes first has to yell stop and the other team has to stop writing. Give them a point for every correct word.
4. Word Circle
One of my students introduced me to this game. Students really like it and it gets competitive! Divide the class into two teams and then on the board draw a big circle and divide it into a pie chart of 36 pieces. Make sure the top centre line is visible, I usually draw a squiggly line, because this will mark the start and finish line. To begin the game the teacher has to choose a letter to start with, like ‘A’, and then write it in the piece to the right of the start line. The team that starts has to then find a word that starts with the letter. Let’s say they choose ‘Animal’ for a round starting with ‘A’, you then have to write every individual letter in the consecutive pie pieces. The next team then has to find a word that starts with ‘L’. The game continues on like this – each team having to find a word that starts with the last letter of the word chosen by the previous team. Every time a team passes the finish line, give them points corresponding to the round (e.g: round 1 gets 1 point, round 2 gets 2 points etc). Eventually, within each pie piece, letters will start to double. If a letter doubles give the team 1 point, if it triples give them 2 points, and so on. This game is good for English learners because they not only have to think of words that start with a particular letter, but they have to think of the spelling so they can get points for repeating letters.
5. 20 Questions
This is a simple and well-known game, but is good because it gets the students thinking in English. Choose a word in English and tell your students they have to guess it by asking you yes or no questions. They only have 20 questions to figure out the word! It will get them thinking in English, it will get them to practice structuring questions, and it will also get them to try and remember information about the word.