Our series of 50 warmup activities for adult ESL classes continues. Check out Monday and Tuesday for activities to get active, get talking, and get excited about English. Check out Thursday and Friday for more fun.
On Wednesdays, we’re taking the activities down a notch to give students time for reflection and writing fluency. Remember that these activities should stimulate thinking and enjoyment of English, so avoid using them for formal assessment. If you prefer to give grades for activities like Minute Papers, don’t forget to also give other writing activities for expression and fun. Similarly, accuracy is a high-stakes and high-concern issue for many adult writers, so reassure them that you will include other writing activities that you can give focused feedback on.
Free-Write: Ss write according to prompts to guide writing fluency
Give students a written or picture prompt at a slightly easier level than they usually work with. For example, beginner-level students can be asked, What do you do every weekend, while intermediate students write about, What is the most difficult part of living in another country, and advanced students can handle Why is your major important to society? For pictures, beginners might only describe, while intermediate and advanced students can be expected to compare, analyze, or predict.
Ask students to write about the topic non-stop for 10 minutes, without using a dictionary or fixing grammar. At the end, ask them to count how many words or lines of text they have completed. Build up their writing stamina every week.
I am, but I’m not: Ss describe themselves with affirmative and negative sentences.
Give students 2 minutes to list qualities or hobbies about themselves. Provide examples about yourself. I am a teacher. I am from the U.S. I have two sons. Then, give them 2 minutes to list things about themselves with ‘not’ sentences. Provide examples, such as I am not a doctor. I don’t like mushrooms. I’ve never been to California. Ask students to share their sentences with a partner, or challenge them to create a self-description paragraph that combines ideas from both lists.
Table Texting: Ss quickly pass messages to each other
Sit the class in a circle or break into small groups in a circle. Give each student a piece of scrap paper and give them 30 seconds to 1 minute to write a quick message to their classmate. Provide an example, such as Hey, how you doing? Ask them to pass their paper to the next student, who has a short time to provide a reply and then pass the paper to the next student. Keep the messages going in short intervals.
Lisa Pagano has a cute template available for free.
Comics Bubble: Ss supply the dialogue for a comic
Take the dialogue out of a comic strip and make copies for the students. Give them time and access to a dictionary to fill in the dialogue to complete the story. Popular examples and blank templates can be quickly found online for Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts, or Dinosaur Comics. Hang the stories up during break and give students time to appreciate each other’s work.
What happens next: Ss predict the end of a video
Before class, collect a few unexpected or funny videos. Search for what happens next video to find several online, already prepared for classroom use. Play the first segment of the video clip and pause it. Give students two to three minutes to write their answer to the question What happens next? Ask a few students to share their predictions, and then play the rest of the video.
Minute Paper: Ss answer a prompt summarizing what they have learned.
As a quick exit or entrance slip, pose a question to the class to summarize what was covered the day before (or that day if using at the end of class). For content-based classes, this is the focus of the lesson, such as How does photosynthesis work? For grammar-based classes, the prompt should trigger the target grammar, such as What should good parents do? Collect the papers after one minute to informally assess student progress.
Poetry: Ss practice descriptive poems
Before class, prepare examples of structured poems, such as acrostics, haiku, or diamante. Draw attention to the rules of the poem form. For example, practice counting syllables for haiku. Elicit the part of speech for diamante. Give students time to complete and possibly illustrate their poems, and then display them for classmates to enjoy.
Vocabulary Tree: Ss brainstorm vocabulary related to a topic
On the board, write a word related to the topic of the day and elicit some related words from the class. For example, family is related to home or brother. Draw different lines going out from the start word and add the class’s suggestions, demonstrating how other words can branch out from those words. Give students 3 minutes to brainstorm as many words as they can.
As a variation, give students two minutes to list all the words they can think of related to the topic. Then, ask them to combine their list with a partner or small group for two minutes. Finally, collect all groups’ lists on the board. Cross out words that were repeated between the lists and give points to each unique word that a group wrote.
10 Things You Need: Ss brainstorm a list and compare to a partner
Give students a situation appropriate for their language level, such as a new apartment, a great date, a successful business. Give students 5 minutes to list 10 things you need for this situation. For beginner students, the list can be short phrases and vocabulary, but for advanced students, they should write a description or explanation, like someone who can communicate with customers well. When most students have written a number of items on the list, put them in pairs to share their answers. Ask students to share with the class something that their partner had that they didn’t think of, or something that they both agreed was important.
Stretch your Sentence: Ss roll die to determine how many words to add to a sentence
On scrap paper, ask students to answer a brief prompt such as What did you do last weekend? Monitor that students have at least the framework of a correct sentence, although there may be errors. Roll a die, or provide die for students to roll themselves. The number rolled is how many words everyone must add to their sentences. Continue for a few more rolls, reminding students that they can add time phrases, adjectives, and break apart contractions.
During any writing (or reading) activity, model great student behavior by sitting down and participating with the students. Teachers don’t get much time to reflect, so observe your students and put your pencil to paper to generate new ideas of your own.
Download a PDF with the full list below.