Warmer and filler activities are such a useful classroom tool. In this free download, I have offered a short explanation of the reasons why we use them as part of our EFL toolkit and then given some ideas that can be used in the classroom and adapted to the level of your students.
Warmers are used to:
- Introduce the topic, theme of the lesson
- Wake up tired students
- Prepare brains, mouths, ears and eyes for English
- To wait for late arrivals
Fillers are used to:
- To provide a break in a lesson if the students are struggling
- As revision at the end of a lesson and to finish on a light note
- To provide humour
- To relax the students
- To provide oral fluency practice
Here are some simple ideas to try out:
Ways to use True or False
- My Hands Never Lie
Students hide a small object like an eraser in their right hand if they are going to say something true and in their left hand if they are going to say something false, and then make their statement (e.g. “My father worked in a circus”) and see if their partner can guess which hand the object is in, i.e. whether their statement is true or not. You can specify the topic and/or grammar they should use to tie in with the text if you like.
- True False Stand Up Sit Down
Make up some sentences, some true and some false, or get the students to make up some sentences and collect them into a bag or hat. Read them out one by one to the students. The students have to stand, and the teacher reads a sentence and ask who thinks it’s true and who thinks false and students raise their hand respectively. The teacher reveals the answer and those who got it right remain standing while those who got it wrong must sit down. The game is played until there is a winner. You can also play the game with other actions like touching parts of your body or standing on your left or right leg.
- Find Which Story Isn’t True
One student tells the other students in their group or class two true stories about him or herself and one false story. The other students can then ask questions about the details of those stories to try and guess which one is not true. The student who told the stories can continue lying about the untrue story when they answer the questions, so their partners just have to guess which story sounds unlikely or from pauses when they are answering the questions.
- Yes To Everything
The students have to reply yes to every Yes/No question they are asked, e.g. “Yes, I have” to every “Have you ever..?” question – including “Have you ever jumped out of a plane?” etc. They then answer 3 follow up Wh-questions about it, and the other students then guess whether the original “Yes” answer was true or false.
- Whiteboard Directions Game
Blindfold one student and stand them near the board with a board pen/chalk. The other students have to tell them how to draw a line between two points on the board by the route you show them. Similar is the ‘Joining Up Game’ where students have to join two words or parts of a sentence on the board by listening to the instructions of the other students, e.g. drawing a line between “do” and “your homework” as quickly as possible by listening to the other students shout “up”, “down”, “left” and “right”.
- Picture Dictation
The students sitting down describe a picture that the student by the board can’t see and help them to draw the same thing on the board.
- Lateral Thinking
Explain that you are going to read out something strange and the students have to work out what has happened. The students can ask questions about the situation and you can only respond with a yes/no/maybe. Readout one of the descriptions below and make sure that the students have understood. The first student to guess what has happened is the winner. You can allow students to work in pairs or threes or teams to discuss the situation and help each other.
a) A man is lying dead in a snowy field. There are no footprints to or from his body. The man has a pack on his back. How did he die?
b) When Harry comes home he finds Sarah is dead, lying in a pool of water and Tom is sitting quietly on the armchair. There is some broken glass on the floor. Tom won’t be charged with murder. Why not?
c) A woman lives on the 30th floor of a building. When she gets home from work, she usually takes the lift as far as the 21st floor and then climbs the stairs to the 30th. However, when it’s raining, she’ll always take the lift to the 30th floor. What explains this strange behaviour?
d) A man walks into a bar and asks the barman for a glass of water. The barman pulls out a gun and points it at the man. The man says ‘Thank you’ and walks out.
e) Five pieces of coal, a carrot and a scarf are lying on the grass. Nobody put them on the grass but there is a perfectly logical reason why they should be there. What is it?
f) A woman had two sons who were born on the same hour of the same day of the same year. But they were not twins. How could this be so?
g) One day a man received a parcel in the post. Carefully packed inside was a human arm. He examined it, repacked it and then sent it on to another man. The second man also carefully examined the arm before taking it to the woods and burying it. Why did they do this?
h) A man rode into town on Friday. He stayed for three nights and then left on Friday. How come?
a) He jumped out of an aeroplane with a parachute on his back that failed to open.
b) Sarah is a fish and Tom is a cat. Sarah was swimming in her bowl. Tom started playing with it and knocked it over.
c) She is a dwarf and cannot reach the top button unless she is carrying an umbrella.
d) The man had hiccups. The barman recognized this from his speech and drew the gun in order to give him a shock. It worked and cured the hiccups – so the man no longer needed the water.
e) They were used by children who made a snowman. The snow has now melted.
f) They were two of a set of triplets (or quadruplets etc.)
g) The three men had been stranded on a desert island. Desperate for food, they had agreed to amputate their left arms in order to eat them. They swore an oath that each would have his left arm cut off. One of them was a doctor and he cut the arms off his two companions. They were then rescued. But his oath was still binding so he later had to have his arm amputated and sent to his colleagues.
h) The man’s horse was called Friday.
- The Balloon Game
For a class of 15 students get 5 balloons. Cut up questions or sentences – taking into account the student’s language level – e.g. “Peter has regularly played tennis on Wednesdays.” “If you won the lottery, how would you spend the money?” Stuff the cut-up bits of paper into each balloon (this is not difficult), blow them up and tie them securely. Explain the activity clearly to the students. Divide the class into groups of 3 students. Each group chooses a runner. When the teacher says ‘GO’ the runner runs up to their balloon, which is on the floor at the front of the classroom (with as much space made around it as possible). They must burst the balloon without using their hands or feet and pick up the pieces of paper inside. They return to their group and together must put the sentences(s)/question(s) in the right order. The group who finishes first are the winners. If they have produced questions, the next step is to work together to answer their questions or discuss them.
- Sherlock Holmes
Hand out strips of paper with directions like these:
- How many students are wearing black shoes today?
- How many chairs are there in the classroom?
- How many students are holding pencils?
- How many posters are there on the classroom walls?
Students wander around the classroom finding the answer to their question. As soon as they have their answer, they run to the board, write the question and answer and their name. If there are a lot of students and access to the board is confined, students who have finished can sit down in their seats when they are finished and then read out their questions and answers in the order they finished at the end of the activity.
- Number Talk
Put the students in pairs. Ask them to talk to each other about a simple topic (such as ‘something they have done in the past week’). The catch is that they must use at least five (for example) different types of numbers in their talk. This may include prices, times, dates, numbers of something, sizes, etc. Their partner should keep a record of their use of numbers and then report back at the end of the activity.
If you like these activities and want more then head over to our Teacher-Toolkit shop where you will find our card sets of activities for the classroom:
You can download these warm-up and filler activities here: