We often use warm-ups in class, whether teaching elementary, junior high or high school. A bad warm-up is no fun for teachers or students and can set a mood that's hard to shake. On the other hand, an effective warm-up that hits these three main points will set you up for a successful class that leaves students looking forward to their next English lesson with you.
The Why of the Warm-Up
- Get into English Mode
When dealing with a second language you aren't using often, it can take some time to get into the mode of that language. You may know what I'm talking about from personal experience.
A warm-up gives students a transition from everyday life where they're not using English to hopefully using English during class. The trick is keep the transition English easy for those students. Just like warming up for exercise, we're trying to get the heart rate up but not necessarily break a sweat.
The English should be easy and therefor it should be something students already know. But, to keep your students progressing, it should also be current. If the only thing students are talking about is what they like, that's all they'll be able to say. "I like ~." gets old quick!
As ALTs, we need to stay aware of what the students are studying so our warm-ups can review recent, current content. (If you're using a textbook, this is quite easy. Just ask the HRT what page the lesson will be on and base your warm-up on a previous chapter.)
Ever noticed that after a beer, wine or whiskey, new language fluency increases? Me too! While we can't serve students alcohol to lower mental communication barriers, we can at least get them laughing (or at the very least, making noise).
With communication blockers like fear or nervousness removed, you greatly increase the chance of a successful class.
Another point to keep in mind is that a lot of the students' time from junior high on is spent on book work and your junior high warm-up may be the only time they get to communicate verbally in English (not including rote recitation).
A good warm-up doesn't have to be complicated. In fact, if it's too hard, it will likely shake the students' confidence and leave them not wanting to participate in class. Boost their motivation with something slightly challenging but fun. Motivation has the biggest influence on a students' language learning. An early success will give student confidence to approach the next step in class.