Warmers, Fillers & Coolers
Below is a list
of warmer/cooler/filler/game activities in no particular order.
If you have any warmers you'd like to add to the list then
please send them to via the Contact
- to introduce a theme
- to relax stds after a hard day's work
- to wake stds up after a hard night
- to wait for late arrivals
- to provide a break in the lesson
- to provide humour
- to provide oral fluency practice
- to finish the lesson on a light note
1. Persuade each other that
their favourite colour, animal, film, etc. is more important,
2.Spot the difference. 2 pictures
- the same but with a few differences. Without looking at
each other's, describe and find the differences.
3 Find someone who.
4.Word association. Go round
the class, each student giving a different word connected
with previous one given.
5.Word disassociation. Same
as previous idea but with no connection between the words
- can be tricky. Students challenge each other.
7.Correct the mistakes. List
of sentences and students correct the wrong ones.
8. Write message on partner's
back with finger.
9.Collocations. Sort out which
are right/wrong e.g. high person, tall building, Happy Birthday.
10.Cut up story/conversation
- put in order.
11.Match headlines and articles.
12.Find connections between
words e.g. television, lake and pen.
13.Call my bluff - give three
definitions of a word & guess which is right.
14.Brainstorm all words connected
15.20 questions - give whether
it is animal, vegetable or mineral & stds guess what it
is in only twenty questions.
16.What's my line -guess the
job & can only answer Yes or No.
17.Train compartment. Each
student has sentence. Must use it naturally in conversation
without others noticing.
18.Weekend. 5 words from each
student to describe weekend. A different student tells class
what other did. Original student verifies.
19.Interpretation of pictures,
20.Mime what they had for dinner
21.Mime a complaint, as a guest,
in a hotel ('Hotel Receptionist'). Rest of the class are the
receptionist. e.g.The sheets are dirty and you've found four
22.What's the situation. Students
discuss where they might hear the sentence e.g. 'A pint, please.'
23.Brainstorm all words that
melt, are green, etc....
24.Put words into lexical groups.
25.Odd man out. Give group of
words and decide which is different e.g. hat, tie, bus, trousers.
26.Famous personality party.
Students have names on backs and by talking with others guess
who they are.
27.Different uses. Students
think of as many different uses for different objects e.g.
28.Charades - mime a film, book
or play with a time limit & teams guess.
29.Test each other on vocab.
from previous class/week. Could mime them.
30.Guess the word with yes/no
31.Picture dictation. One describes
a pic & the other draws.
32.Desert island. 5 things you
33.Mime an idiom. e.g. 'to pull
34.Logic problems. (See 'Challenge
to Think' - Frank et al (OUP) for a list of these.)
35.Clothes touch. Students walk
round room and have to touch somebody else's clothing when
told. e.g. Touch a white shoe.
37.Functions. Match sentence
with functional description.
38.Chain story - A begins, B
continues with a sentence, C then adds another sentence etc.
39.Exercises. If they're in
need of livening up. Students follow instructions. e.g. Touch
your toes. Run on the spot.
40.Blind men directions. One
student with eyes closed follows directions of other student.
41. Mime story. The teacher/a
student tells a story. Class mimes it walking around the storyteller
in a circle.
42.Describing the object. 'A'
is taken, with eyes shut, to object 'B' puts As hand on it
and A has to describe it and give it a name.
43.Which picture? 'A' has a
few pictures and 'B' has one. B describes it and A identifies
which one it is of his pictures.
44.Jumbled sentences. Mix up
order of words in a sentence. Students unravel and put in
45.Guess the town, city, country.
One student describes and the others guess.
46.American words. Students
match up British English and American English words.
Give only the prefix or suffix e.g. dis_________ , _________ness
and students think of all words that could fit.
49.Spotting the connection between
words (could be dictated and students shout out when they
think of the connection) e.g.sun, star, mirror, Telegraph
50.Picture composition cut up.
Each student has one picture. Without showing each other,
discuss pics and put in order.
51.Prepositions of time. Match
times with prepositions e.g. at 6 o'clock on Saturday.
52.Memory. Look at pic for 45
seconds. Turn over and describe.
53.Quotes from famous people.
Match quotes and names.
54.Deduction. Students work
out what pic is. e.g.the Mexican on a bicycle.
55.Match description and jobs
56.Ordering famous people, personal
qualities, verbs using same criteria e.g. usefulness.
57.Lies. One student tells rest/partner
about self but lies 3 times. At end others say what lies were.
58.Survival games. e.g. The
NASA game. Students have list of things, choose 5 things that
will be most useful for survival on the moon, in the desert,
etc (See 'Discussions that Work' - Penny Ur (CUP))
59.Write down as many things
as you can think of which are .... (choose one: round/smaller
than a CD/beautiful/dangerous etc.), 2 minutes - students
brainstorm alone, then words on board. Use words to quiz each
other (it's something you use to...) From Tamara
60.Here's a new warmer. I dreamed
it up years ago when I was working as a tutor in a writing
center in Laguardia Community College in New York City; the
majority of the students who came for support work in English
were immigrants, adult returning students, younger disadvantaged
learners (single mothers, ex-substance abusers, etc.) that
is, a population of people who had lived a lot and were not
your typical middle class comfortable-life type. One day another
teacher passed around an essay one of her students had written
about a typical bad day-everything went wrong-no heat or hot
water that morning in the house, bad weather, lousy public
transit, broken coffee machine at work, broken photocopy machine,
etc. It was hysterically funny and a great radical statement
on urban life for the less than luxurious-living citizen.
I started by asking a group of students to make a list of
all the things in their house that didn't work - bad plumbing,
broken elevator, lukewarm fridge, creaky doors and chairs,
dead mattresses, etc. We realized that the ideal pushed at
us from US commercial culture had nothing to do with the reality
that most people live. You can stretch it to service that
doesn't come up to snuff, bad jobs that we ourselves do.....the
possibilities are endless. And all can be done with a sense
of humor, and with an eye to social criticism - how much perfection
can we expect? How much can we give? whose fault is it? It
works especially well in business classes which is what I'm
mostly doing now-the conversation frequently leads to the
conflict between corporate culture and humanism...or something
like that. From Lee Buckley
61. A friend sent this riddle
recently you could use it as a warmer. The students
could ask you Yes/No questions to help them to the answer.
But do you know the answer?
- greater than God?
- more evil than the devil?
And what do;
- the poor have?
- the rich need?
And when you eat it you die?
62. Give this to your advanced
students to get into a sound/spelling discussion.
A NEW ENGLISH LANGUAGE
The European Commission
has just announced an agreement whereby English will
be the official language of the EU rather than German
which was the other possibility. As part of the negotiations,
Her Majesty's Government conceded that English spelling
had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5 year
phase-in plan that would be known as "Euro-English".
In the first year, "s"
will replace the soft "c". Sertainly, this
will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard
"c" will be dropped in favour of the"k".
This should klear up konfusion and keyboards kan have
1 less letter. There will be growing publik enthusiasm
in the sekond year, when the troublesome "ph"
will be replaced with "f". This will make
words like "fotograf" 20% shorter.
In the 3rd year, publik
akseptanse of the new spelling kan be ekspekted to reach
the stage where more komplikated changes are possible.
Governments will enkorage the removal of double letters,
which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling.
Also, al wil agre that the horible mes of the silent "e"s in the language is disgraseful, and they
should go away. By the fourth year, peopl wil be reseptiv
to steps such as replasing "th" with "z"
and "w" with "v". During ze fifz
year, ze unesesary "o" kan be dropd from vords
kontaining "ou" and similar changes vud of
kors be aplid to ozer kombinations of leters.
After zis fifz yer, ve
vil hav a reli sensibl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor
trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi to understand
63. This is a bit of fun pop
psychology. Put the following symbols on the board & ask
the students to copy them down. Then tell them to draw some
pictures very quickly, each one incorporating a different
symbol - so they draw 6 pictures - & put a one or two-
word description above or below the picture. The symbols are
a small circle, a key, a small box, a vertical line, a wavy
line, a dot.
The first picture is sometimes
a flower, the third a window of a house, the fourth a tree & the last the top of a mountain. The interpretations
are that each picture tells you how you see an aspect of yourself.
In the order of the pictures they are how you
see yourself, your friends, your family, your sex life, your
job & lastly your future. In the feedback ask what they
a few of them had for each picture.
64. This is a fun warmer that
Joanne Shipp did on a training course recently. You need some
cards with objects written on them - one sock, an empty CD
case, a kilo of heroin, one bicycle wheel
.. Hand one
to each student & put them into groups of 3 or 4. They
then have to choose someone in their group & try to persuade
them that they desperately need that thing. The student being
persuaded can resist & give arguments as to why they don't
need it. The others in the group then vote as to who should
have it. And so on until everyone has had a go at trying to
65. In these rather depressing
times it is difficult to open a newspaper & find anything
uplifting to read about. In class you could change this around
& with the front page of a newspaper in front of the group,
ask them to change it into positive news. Or without the paper,
get them to think of what has been happening in the world
lately & discuss what good might have come out of the
events or change the stories around into good news.
This could be an isolated speaking activity, an activity linked
in to the theme of the lesson &/or lead on to writing
practice. A positive beginning to the lesson.
66. Connected to the theme of
music, a great piece of material to have at hand for your
teenage groups is the recent top 20 music singles charts.
Hand out a copy to each group of three or four stds & get them chatting at the beginning of a lesson:
- do they agree that e.g. Michael Jackson's single should
be at no. 1.
- who would they vote for no. 1 - explain why - the language
of comparison & persuasion.
- design their own top 5, from the top 20 they have in front
of them - persuade another group that their list makes more
- describe songs to each other that not yet heard.
- discuss why certain songs have descended in the list.
- can they remember any of the words to any in the top 5?
- which artists would they actually buy concert tickets to go see?
A local chart is better but if you need an international/US-based
one the address below takes you to Billboard's Hot 100 - should
keep them chatting for a while!
67. Some shopping roleplays
You've been short-changed & you reckon it wasn't an
accident. Try to get your money back.
You just served a 'difficult' customer. You want to get
rid of him/her as soon as you can. You think most of these
'difficult' customers invent excuses to be difficult.
You bought an iron last week & it didn't work when
you tried to use it. Talk to the shopkeeper who sold it
to you & get your money back.
You don't accept any refunds or exchanges four days after
selling an item.
You are trying to find out some more information about
a TV that you want to buy - the different makes, sizes,
functions etc. Ask the shopkeeper.
You feel it is your job to sell electronic goods but not
inform the customers. You feel they should decide what
they are going to buy before they come into the shop.
You are looking around a clothes shop that you come to
regularly. You are actually wearing a shirt that you bought
here last week.
You work in a clothes shop & you see a customer in
one of your shirts. You think that s/he must have taken
the shirt to the changing rooms to try on & came out
wearing it as if it were his/hers. You think s/he is trying
to steal it. Talk to him/her.
You are very concerned about green issues. You are in
a shop that clearly imports goods from developing countries
that pays the workers who make the goods a pittance. Try
to convince the manager that s/he shouldn't be selling
manager: You sell a variety of goods from all over the
world & business has known better times. You aren't
particularly sympathetic towards green issues.
68. Here's a nice puzzle to
begin a lesson. Give the instructions orally or give out the
1. First of all, pick the number
of times a week that you would like to study English. (try
for more than once but less than 10 times)
2. Multiply this number by 2.
3. Add 5.
4. Multiply it by 50 - it starts to get a bit tricky here!
5. If you have already had your birthday yet his year add
1751. If you haven't, add 1750.
6. Now subtract the four-digit year that you were born. You
should now have a three digit number.
7. Add 10.
And here comes the good part:
The first digit of this number
is your original number i.e. how many times you would like
to study English each week). The next two numbers are your
69. 'When my students come in
at the beginning of the morning they're yawning away &
in no mood for anything. So to wake them up I get them to
stand in a circle & we all do a few physical warm-up exercises
together. These are mainly stretching exercises like touching
your toes five times. It works & it's fun. We can then
all get on with a productive lesson. I sometimes do this during
a lesson & I imagine the same can be done for the class
that begins at the end of the day too.'sent in by Annie Jones
in the UK:
70. Word Change - this warmer
really gets your students thinking about grammar. Write a
lengthy sentence on the board & volunteer a student to
come out to the board with the pen/chalk. The class &
the student have to change the sentence word by word but the
sentence must still make sense. One word at a time can be
changed - keep the original sentence on the board & write
the new word below the one it changes. And any word can be
changed any time, even the new ones. The key is to keeping
For example, with this sentence:
I went on holiday to China during
the summer and found the people very friendly.
Change 'China' for 'Norway' >> change 'friendly' for optimistic' >> change
'went' to 'came' etc each time writing the new word below
the word it changed. Works well for conditionals too.
71. Here's one of Nedra's favourite
warmers, which she uses when she just can't think of anything
else to get the class started.
Each student gets a shape (square, circle, rectangle, cube,
sphere, pyramid, diamond, etc.). They have 2-3 minutes to
think of as many things as possible, which are generally ONLY
that shape. Obviously some are easier than others, so having
them do it in pairs is nice, too. You have to emphasize that
the things on their list should normally only take THAT shape,
to avoid six thousand things on the square and rectangle list.
Also, make sure they distinguish between squares and rectangles:
books are generally rectangular, not square.
Follow up by eliciting adjectives (square, circular, rectangular...)
72. My name is Marina Cantarutti,
and I am a teacher of EFL in Argentina. I would like to share
with you my favourite warmer, which serves also as an introduction
game. It is based on a card game kids play here, which is
called "The Pig". Each student will be given three
cards to complete. On the first card, the student should write
his name, surname and age. On the second, four adjectives
describing his physical appearance; and on the third, his
favourite TV programme and music band. All the students' cards
are then shuffled and handed out to the students, who will
be seated in a circle. Each student will have three different
cards, from different students. One of the students will act
as the director, and will tell the others to choose one,
two or three cards to give to the student sitting at the right
or left of them. They will go on following the directions
of this student to exchange the cards until any of them gets
his/her three cards. When he/she does, he should say "Pig",
and all the students should place both their hands in the
middle of the
circle. The last one to do so gets a letter of the word "Pig"
as penalization, while the student who got all his/her cards,
should introduce himself/herself using the information written
in the card ("My name is...". "I am...years
old", "I am tall, thin.." etc.) and then stay
as a spectator. The game goes on until all
the students have introduced themselves, and the one to get
all the "PIG" letters should repeat the names and
features of all the other students.
Hope you will all find it both useful and entertaining!
73. Want to do a reading or
listening that class and plan to pre- teach some vocab.? What
I've done is start off the class with a true or false discussion
warmer. I write a series of sentences using target vocab.,
some true, some false, on the board. I try to make the sentences
illustrate the meaning of the vocab., or at least lead them
to an educated guess. Students discuss. You do
feedback and give correct answers. Example:
For Headway Upper-Int. unit
6, advertisement listening:
In Britain you have to buy a
license to watch television. (T)
All ducks are yellow and fluffy. (F-only ducklings)
There are four branches of the military in the United States.
(T - army [target word], navy, air force, marines)
You can recycle disposable razors and blades. (my students
A couple of warmers from Trang Lee:
74. Gap filling : Ask students to work in pairs. Give Ss passages with the
same context but different blanks. Without showing his text, each
student has to speak with his partner who has got the answers to find
the information to fill in the blanks.
75. Code some words using the language of the blind. Give them how the
blind write the letters ( from A to Z). The first person who decode all
the words and find out the theme correctly is the winner.
A warmer from Rob Rushworth
76. A good reading warmer that can be used to recap previous work and focus students after a weekend or short break.
1. Stand all of the students in a line in the centre of the room. Write "True" on one side of the whiteboard, and "False" on the other.
2. Tell the students that you are going to give them some details from previously read pages in the story. The students must decide whether given details are true or false, then quickly run/move to the correct side of the classroom - as indicated by the "True", "False" on the whiteboard.
Boy/girl team elimination works for most levels and can be adapted to target character, setting, story development etc.
A warmer from Hayley Sheldon
My mum used to work with children who had behavioural problems and gave me this tip; I use it with all levels and ages as a lovely positive start to the lesson:
Get the class in a line, go along, shake each hand and "say something nice." Just a simple compliment will do, you're good at football, you have nice shoes etc. Each student follows suit, shaking each hand and saying something nice to each student. It's a lovely way to start a day and brings a good atmosphere. Can also be used to emphasise language points (adjectives, intonation, school subjects/sports vocab etc.)Try it!
For a pdf version
you've got any warmers/coolers/games to add
please send them in!
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