By the time Friday rolls around, everyone in your class is tired, materials are all over the place, lesson plans are a wreck, and there always seems to be more to catch up on. Keep these warm-up activities ready to get yourself and your students through the end of the week with a positive attitude for learning.
BYOD games: Ss play real-time interactive quizzes
Before class, make an account on one of the several great sites that allow teachers to develop mobile-friendly Q&As. Although Quizlet is the most well-known and used, Socrative and Kahoot include features that let the class play on teams, race to the answer, pool their knowledge, or see a running leaderboard. All three have an existing database of teacher-created quizzes that you can copy and edit for your class.
In class, project the login code and students can pull out their devices and get started as they arrive. (Students do not need an account to play Socrative and Kahoot quizzes, but they do sign in with a name, so you can check the report to identify struggling students and skills.) Students see their feedback immediately as they play, and the teacher can focus feedback only on questions that were problematic.
BYOD games are great for flipped and blended classrooms, review sessions, or anticipatory activities to introduce new content or target grammar.
Agree to Disagree: Ss discuss controversial topics
Before class, prepare several statements about controversial topics at the right level for your students. Even if you have a beginner-level class, remember that their conceptual abilities are advanced, although their language may not be. (Ex: The world cannot have any more people.) In pairs or small groups, give students two or three minutes to explain whether they agree or disagree with the statement.
Don’t forget to scaffold this activity in the rest of your class time with phrases for polite classroom discussion. One handy tip is to make sure that students use the Yes, but method, shown on the last slide of the PDF. Students can start with a concession (That’s a good point), before making their disagreement (what about…).
What’s in the box: Ss ask questions to identify the item that a student is holding.
Before class, prepare a box or plastic reusable bag with a few familiar items. (Ex: an orange, a sock, a notebook.) Ask for a volunteer to put their hand in the bag and grab one item, but not take it out of the bag. Get questions started by asking the volunteer a Yes/No question (Is it big?). Allow students to take turns asking more Yes/No questions until someone can guess the object, or put class in teams for asking questions.
Slap: Ss race to find the right card
Before class, prepare cards for each small group with the target language. For beginners, this might be pictures of listening vocabulary, for intermediate students you could use past tense irregular verbs, and advanced students can use content vocabulary or phrasal verbs. Give each group a set of cards and demonstrate how to spread them out with the picture or word sides up. The teacher reads a word, a sentence, a different form of the word (present tense verbs, i.e.), or a definition. The first student to touch the correct card wins it. Play till most cards are claimed and the student with the most wins. The same cards can be used for speed drills, Memory, or other class games.
Mad Libs: Ss fill in a story by only knowing the part of speech of missing words
Before class, write or look online for ESL-friendly Mad Libs. (Try some of the ones at islCollective.) Pass a worksheet to each pair, so that one can see the story while the other can’t. With a student volunteer, demonstrate how to prompt for only the part of speech or description for each blank. Once a pair has completed the story, they can read it together. Alternatively, create a table at the top of the worksheet that can be folded over or filled out before looking at the story.
Graffiti: Ss race to circle the word they hear
Before class, write 10-20 review words in large print on a blank paper, and make enough copies for each pair in the class. Ask each student to find a different colored pen or marker from their partner. Read one of the words in the paper and ask students to circle it quickly. The first student in each pair who circled the word gets the point. Confirm that pairs identified the correct word before continuing. Repeat till most of the words on the worksheet are circled. To add challenge, read different forms of the word, such as present and past tense verbs, or use the word in a sentence.
Popcorn: Ss relay questions around the room
Toss a small toy or soft object into the class and ask a question to the student it lands near. After he or she answers, ask this student to ask a different question and toss the object randomly. Continue till most students have asked and answered the question. If students are choosing who to throw to, ask them to close their eyes and throw over their shoulder, instead.
Mix-Match: Ss each write half a sentence
Give each student a few slips of scrap paper and divide the class in half. One side writes a verb phrase on each paper (ex: drive to the mountains, read a magazine, fly in the sky). The other half writes sentence frames for the review target grammar (ex: I hope to, My teacher likes to, I don’t want to). Collect the verbs in one bag and the frames in the other. Draw one card from each bag to create sentences for writing on the board. Or, have a student draw the cards and write the sentences. For a challenge, use trigger phrases like yesterday, last month, next summer instead of sentence frames and ask the student to write the verb phrase in the correct tense.
Song Lyrics: Ss practice English with pop culture songs
Before class, prepare lyrics for a song at the appropriate level for your students. Create a worksheet that practices the target skill. Removing some words for a Fill-in-the-Blanks activity is popular. Also, you can provide the lyrics cut up into verses or lines and ask pairs to arrange them in the correct order while listening. Or, you can change some of the lyrics and ask students to correct the mistakes that they hear (make these obvious errors).
If students have access to devices, let them choose their own song to practice at LyricsTraining.com
Shoestring Shapes: Ss work together silently to make a shape
Before class, prepare a long length of rope or bring several sets of shoestrings and begin class by asking the students to tie them together into a circle. Ask all students to grab the string with at least one hand. Then, explain that because it’s Friday and the teacher is tired, they may not use English or Arabic or any other language during the activity. They can use gestures, but cannot speak or write, and all students must hold the string all the time. Call out a letter or shape and ask them to move around the classroom to make that shape with the string. Once they have completed the shape, give them another. Begin easy with heart or D, and advance to star or E.
Variation: You can allow students to choose between no talking or no seeing. Or, you can allow students to prepare behind a set line – once they cross over the line and pick up the string, they must be silent.
Download a PDF of all the activities below.