Starting with a warmer is important for a number of reasons. Your students need a chance to settle down into the class and get their minds focussed on the lesson ahead. Delving straight into difficult subject matter isn’t going to help them in the least bit.
We need to slowly ease people into learning, starting them off with something easy and slowly becoming more and more complex. This is generally how a course runs, and in a way the class is much like a miniature course within a course. The students need something easy to get them started, so the wheels in their head can start turning, so to speak. There are also numerous warm-up techniques which teachers use. Testing vocabulary is usually one of the most obvious ones that people will use. There are many more, but it is important for teachers to realize why they warm up classes.
Why You Should Start Every Lesson With A Warmer
Setting the Tone
Undoubtedly, a warm up lesson will set the tone for what is to take place during the class. This is a great idea for many reasons. Students will have some idea of what to expect, and the topic can easily be introduced to them. For example, if one were teaching a business class about imports and exports, one could have a warm-up exercise where the students can test their own knowledge of related vocabulary. It will allow them to start off in a single train of thought in order to keep them on track for the remainder of the class.
The Importance of Planning
A lot of teachers plan. In fact, planning is probably where most of the work goes into a class. Of course, the important parts are gone over including the activities and other exercises. But a lot of teachers will forget to do things such as warming up and cooling down. They will often come into the class and pull something off the top of their head. Whilst this can work, it is always good to be prepared. Construct a good warm up session from the materials that are going to be covered in the class itself. This will give the students plenty to talk about at the beginning, and will help ease them into the rest of the lesson.
Warm ups and ice breakers are essential for those classes where everybody is new, including the teacher. They will allow everyone to relax and get to know each other. This way, people will become less inhibited and more likely to chat with their peers and with the teacher. It will raise the energy levels, allowing everybody feel a little more at home. It is important for students to feel comfortable in the class, as a first day can be especially daunting. In this spirit, a warm up exercise can work wonders at getting people more mobilised.
Length of Time
Normally it is advised to have a warm up session during the first five minutes of the class. Students need to get from speaking their own language to speaking English. If one is teaching in a country where the official language is not English, then beforehand the students will be speaking their own language. This might continue after they have gone into the class, so it is important to give them some time to get used to speaking English. This way they will also increase in their confidence, and related back to the last topic of helping them to lose their inhibitions. Student participation is key, as this class is for them to improve and therefore they need to be able to speak it as much as possible. This ties in with the concepts of Teacher Talking Time and Student Talking Time. Student Talking Time is meant to increase as the class goes on. The teacher can consider the class a success if the students end up speaking more English as it proceeds.
It is true that students also need to be corrected during class. This will allow them to identify their mistakes and not make them again. Stress how important it is for the students to make mistakes, so they will not feel embarrassed or afraid to speak again. But during the warm up exercises, disregard this. The warm up session needs to have a certain flow. Allow it to continue and then perhaps jot down whatever mistakes were made. Once it is completed, then one will be able to go over the mistakes with the students again and tell them where they went wrong.
It is also important to make sure that the warm up sessions are a little bit fun. Getting the student relaxed and thinking in English is the key issue here.
Nothing can be learned if the students are tense and unwilling to speak, therefore warming up will allow the wheels in their head to start turning and open up the gateway to knowledge.