The 26 Areas – The Warm Up

The 26 Areas

This week I’m going to start a series on something called the 26 areas.  When I started teaching English to adults, I was taught about 26 different things to always try and include in my lessons.  My trainer would always say the more of these I had in a lesson, the better results I would get out of a class.  The less of them I used, the less learning would occur and then “the students will get mad, go to a different school and we all lose our jobs.”  Some of these are probably going to be familiar to you if you are an experienced teacher, but if you’re new to the profession, hopefully you will find these helpful.

  1. The Warm Up

Warm ups are activities we use to start every lesson.  Their goal is to get students comfortable talking in English and ready to start today’s lesson.  If you see the same group of students every class, this can be a chance to review the previous class.  If this is your first time teaching these students, it can be a chance to learn more about them.  Ideally the warm up is not going to be too long, maybe between 5-10 minutes depending on how long your class is.  In this post I’m going to look at the advantages and disadvantages of warm ups as well as the best practice for creating a warm up activity.

Warm ups have several advantages.  The main advantage is that it gives students a chance to talk before being confronted with new material.  They have a chance to practice language they have already learned and to calm their nerves.  This can be especially useful if you’re dealing with first-time students who have never spoken to a native speaker before.  There are also benefits for the teacher.  You can see which groups work well together as well as identifying any pairings you want to change later in the lesson.  You can also get a sense for which students are high level and which ones are low level.  Getting the students talking to each other also gives you a chance to do certain administrative tasks, like taking the attendance or setting up the room for the next activity.  Great warm ups will also leave students feeling excited for the lesson to come.

While there are many advantages from a warm up done well, if we get the warm up wrong it can hurt the rest of the lesson.  If the warm up is too hard, it can kill a student’s motivation.  Furthermore, a bad warm up can leave students feeling bored.  If students are confused by the warm up then they may not trust you as a teacher and question every activity that comes after that.

So how can teachers create a great warm up activity?  First, focus on a communicative task.  Get the students talking to each other, not to you.  If you set the tone at the beginning of class that you want the students to talk, it can help you with keeping the student talk time higher during the rest of the class.  Also, try to keep your warm up connected to the topic of the class.  This will give you a chance to see how much your students already know.  Lastly, avoid correcting students during this stage.  It’s ok to collect an error to correct later in the class, but if you correct it now, you might make an already nervous student more nervous.

As Chris Cotter points out, “The warm up of a lesson receives less attention than it should.”  This is very true I think.  Even at my school a lot of the warm ups are little more than, “small talk with students.”  Cotter’s article (which was very helpful for this post; you can find the link below) would disagree strongly with this style of warm up.  If the teacher is initiating the conversation, then it means the teacher will be the focus of the lesson, with students waiting to be asked a question by the teacher and not wanting to talk first themselves.  This is something I’m guilty of a lot and want to improve on to make my lessons better.  Thanks for reading.  If you have any additional thoughts on warm ups or know any good warm up activities, please leave a comment.


The Importance of Warming Up Students

11 no-prep warm up activities

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