Five warmers every TEFL teacher should know.

When writing a lesson plan for non-English speaking students, it important to begin with a warmer, a game, an activity, something that is light, and fun integrated into your plan. Why is that? It’s because students in the first five minutes will be switching from their mother tongue and into listening and talking in English. It’s essential to give students this time to warm-up theirs brains ready to focus and secondly to warm-up to being in a class with other students, or thirdly to simply even listen to the teacher’s accent and have a shared moment with them.

Top Tips when planning a “warm-up”

The first rule is to plan a fun activity. This will help students to feel comfortable in trying out their English, especially if they haven’t spoken it at all in the last few days.

The second thing to emphasise that it’s an English only game, even if students are tempted to speak their mother tongue and help each other out. This won’t be a problem if you already have well-established class rules. If you’re teaching online, the same rule applies, you can visually demonstrate this using hand gesture or a slide show.

Let students know that making a mistake is better than not trying all.  Also do not correct mistakes in their warm-up as it could inhibit their confidence or flow.

If you’re in a classroom, get students mingling in groups or in pairs to encourage them to speak.

If you’re online or one-one, you and the student could still do a warmer. You could virtually pass the ball back and forth whilst reciting vocab, you could have a PowerPoint set up to flick through and call out true or false or have a conversation about it.

A great way to enhance vocabulary is to use the new words learnt in their previous lesson at the start of this lesson in the warmer for practise.

Using movement or TPR (Total Physical Response) to make their warm up engaging. You can view my video all about using TPR here for more top tips for teaching online.

Top Five Warmer Every TEFL Teacher should know.

You can adjust these games to suit which ever level your students are at whether it’s beginner, intermediate or advanced,

1.Pass the ball.

This warmer is good for students if it’s your first class as it involves introductions.

Decide whether you want to play in a circle as a whole class, or in small groups with a few balls.

The first person says their name and something they like using the letter of their first name.

For Example: My name is Ben. I like basketball

Then the student passes to the next student who repeats what they last student said and adds their name and what they like.

For example, Hi Ben, basketball. I’m Jenny. I like jumping.

Then keep playing until all students have had a turn.

You can change up the words depending on your students’ level. If they are online, you can play the game virtually with a pretend ball or object.

2. True or False Game


Students write down three statements about themselves. Two are true and one is false.

For example

I love cats.

I have been bungee jumping once.

I enjoy surfing.

If students are learning about past participles you could have then create each sentence in a scaffolded way. Or alternatively let be free flow session. If students are beginners, they could draw a picture and say one-two word s and the other student could still guess true or false or use yes and no instead.

Students could rotate and play a few rounds with different students, or you could put them in pairs. One student is sharing their three sentences and the other is guessing, then they swap.  

Then ask students to stop playing and each student will share one sentence or one thing they found us about their partner or classmate.


3. Picture Mingle

Each student draws three things in their life on a post-it notes.

For example: 

You could ask students to choose three nouns that they want to talk about like a house, dog or a neighbour. Or maybe you could play the game with verbs like run, skate and swim.

The students then stick their three notes on their arms, a place where other students can see. 

  Play some music.  Students can move or dance around the room.

When the music stops, they ask the person nearest them about their pictures.

Asking questions in a foreign language is harder than saying a single word or even a sentence. Depending on the student’s level, you may write a generalised question on the board.

For example, for beginners to intermediate they may ask, “What do you like?” “I like to run” or “What is this?” “It’s a house”.

For advanced using the same example, they may ask “Why did you choose a house to talk about?” “What’s your address?” or “So, I can see you like running, I do too. What else do you like?”

Keep playing the music again and repeat several times.

If you’re online, you could play this game with your student as well, play some music then take a turn each to reveal one of the picture cards, hold it up to the screen etc.

4.Hot Seat

1)Put the students into small teams.

2) One person from each group sits with their back to the board.

3) The teacher writes a word they’ve recently learnt on the board.

For example, “pizza”. It’s a food. It’s hot. It’s round. It has 8 pieces.

Or as a variation, student could ask yes/no questions to figure out what it is.

For example. Is it food? Yes. Is for breakfast?  No. Is for lunch? Yes Is it spicy? No etc, this could take a little longer though.
4) The students facing the board describe the word without saying it.  The students with their back to the board must guess what it is.
5) The person who guesses correctly will win a point for their team.  They stay in the seat out the front, and the other students would swap with another team member


5. Find Someone Who…

For this game, you will need prepare a set of ten ‘find someone who’ questions that are related to a topic you have just learnt and make a copy for each student. For example:

Find someone who:
… has met a celebrity__________
… has been on TV or radio __________
… has sung in front of a large group __________

Write an example on the board.

For example, “Have you met a celebrity before who?

Students then ask each other the questions in pairs or mingle.

The object of the game is to find somebody who answers yes. Once they have found a yes for each question, the game is complete.

 Finally, ask the class to share something interesting they’ve learnt about someone.


I hope you have found these warmers helpful, please comment below which ones you tried yourself.


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