Warm Up Activities for ESL Classes

Here are some ideas of warm up activities for ESL classes.

Intensive Speaking and Listening

Ask the students a series of questions based on a topic, and then get all students to listen to the answers. When all students have answered the questions, quiz the students on their comprehension and memory of the responses.

  1. English (How long have you studied English? Why are you studying English?)
  2. Job (What is your job? How long have you worked there? Do you enjoy it?)
  3. Family (How many people live in your house? How many brothers and sisters do you have? Are you married?)
  4. Food (What is your favourite food? What kind of food do you like? What food do you dislike?)
  5. Movies (Do you like watching movies? What is your favourite movie? What kind of movie do you like? What kind of movie don’t you like? Can you recommend a good movie? What movie should we avoid?)


The teacher starts by saying a word. For example “book”. The first student has to say a word that starts with the last letter of the word (eg “king”), and so on.

20 Questions – Who am I?

Students ask questions and teacher answers yes or no only. Eg. Madonna, Gandhi

Kimberley’s Game

Bring around 20 objects to class. Teacher shows them to the students one by one, confirming the name of each object. Then the objects are put away. Students have to write down the names of all of the objects. (toothbrush, facecloth, film, mirror, bandaid, book, tuna, fork, knapsack, thread, headband, headphones, perfume, tape, cassette, watch, blowdryer, scissors, stapler, comb, disk, remote control, cards)

No No No yes

Teacher asks students questions, students must not say yes or no (must find another way to agree or disagree).


Students create fake definitions (bee in her bonnet, cheapskate) for words or phrases. The teacher collects the fake answers, adds the correct answer to the pile, and reads them out one by one. The students vote on which one is correct. Source: http://www.eduplace.com/fakeout


Students are given five categories (animals, fruits & vegetables, person’s name, work-related word, country) and one letter of the alphabet (s, b, w, r, m). In a limited period of time, they must come up with as many examples of each category that start with that letter. When the first letter is done, check everyone’s answers. If the student has a word that no one else has, that student gets a point. Then move on to the next letter.

A + B = C

Students are given two letters of the alphabet and they must come up with words that include both of those letters. If the letters were “t” and “l” for example, the student would say “T plus L =…” and then finish with a word like “towel”. The next person then has to do the same in a short amount of time. Keep going around the class until someone stumbles. The letters can be used in order or reversed, and the word can be any length, but must be one single word. Words cannot be said twice in one game.

Minute Mysteries

The teacher gives the students a scenario and the students have to figure out what happened. The students can ask any question that has a yes/no answer.

A man is lying face down in the desert with a pack on his back. He is dead. How did he die?
Solution: The man had just jumped out of a plane and the pack was a parachute that failed to open.

There is a lady who lives on the 50th floor of an apartment building. Every day she likes to go shopping, so she takes the elevator all the way down to the ground floor and heads out to shop. When she returns, she takes the elevator up to the 10th floor and then walks the rest of the way to the 50th floor. On rainy days, she takes the elevator all the way to the top. Why?
Solution: The lady is very short. While she can reach the ground floor button in the elevator, she sure can’t reach the 50th floor button! On sunny days she can reach the 10th floor button and has to walk the rest of the way up. On rainy days she carries an umbrella and uses it to reach the 50th floor button.


Teacher writes a grid of 16 (4X4) letters on the board. Students have to come up with as many words as they can see in the grid.


Plus One, Two, Three

The first student says “Yesterday I went to the store and I bought [something].” The next person adds to the first by saying “Yesterday I went to the store and I bought [something] and [something else].” But, any student can add up to three individual items at a time.