ESL Warm Up Games and Activities

ESL warm up games and activities

A good warm up is brief, engaging, and introduces the lesson in a meaningful way. A great warm up does double duty. It offers a quick review of something the students will need for the day’s lesson.

Stuck for a warm up for your class?

While we all have our go-to activities, it’s always good to have more options in order to keep our classes fresh. Here are some ideas for you.

Ask an interesting question
What do you think about…?
Can you guess what I have in my pocket?
Would you rather…?

Make a mistake or two, or three, or…
Write sentences with errors and invite the students to find them and explain them. Check out an example of this activity, and what you can do with it.

Funny words
Start a list of words that are fun to say, and use it as a no-prep warm up anytime. Does this idea sound like malarkey, balderdash and fiddlesticks? There you go, you have three to get you started! Write a few of the words from your list on the board, use them in context, and ask the students to guess their meanings. Can they use the words in their own sentences?

Riddle me this.
Present a conundrum, and invite students to figure it out. One take on this idea is to solve a puzzle together. It can be surprisingly difficult to express where to put the pieces, and a fun challenge. Make sure that your students are armed with skills they need before you use this as a warm up.

Build a story together.
Take turns adding a word or a sentence to create a story. You can either write out what is said, or make it more challenging by having to remember what came before. Either way, it’s so rewarding to hear your students utter reams of perfect English once the game gets going.

Use Your Flashcards.

Gosh, is there anything you can’t do with flashcards? The possibilities are endless. Here are a few examples:

Simply ask students to say or write the vocabulary words. The first person to get 10 in a row correctly wins. Draw two or three of the cards, and invite students to use all of the words in one sentence. Add a grammar point or verb tense for an added challenge.

Put the students in pairs or teams, and have them take turns drawing cards and trying to describe them. How many words can their partners guess correctly in two minutes?

Feel free to use our collection of flashcards in your warm ups.

The classics are classic for a reason!

The classic warm ups are classic because students love them, and they are effective when done correctly. It can be tempting to stick with an activity that’s working for too long. But warm ups set the routine and the tone for every class. Keep warm ups brief. Don’t fall for the old, “oh teacher, just one more round”.

Have your warm up do double duty!

These are warm ups that I’ve designed for specific topics, in order to remind my students of something we’ve covered in a previous class, but that we should review before we move into the lesson. Yet these ideas are easy to adapt, and I include generic versions of these games for you whenever I can.

You can gamify pretty much anything.

Do your students need to practice identifying parts of speech, or to memorize the irregular past simple verbs? Whatever topic you are working on, chances are that you can gamify it, by simply making up a list a questions and using a scoreboard.

Do you have a great idea for a warm up? Reach out to us on Reddit and let us know!