9 Warmers and Coolers.

tefl online pro
8 min readApr 16, 2021


What are Warmers and Coolers?

A Warmer is a short activity or game at the beginning of the lesson.

Warmers are important for students to have some idea of what to expect in the class ahead and are an excellent method for introducing the class topic. For example, if one were teaching a Business English class about finance, one could have a warm-up exercise where the students can test their own knowledge of related vocabulary. A Warmer 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.

A Cooler is a short activity or game at the end of the lesson. It is your opportunity to conclude the lesson with a relevant and logical finish.

The reason why Coolers are so relevant in the English language classroom is because they act as revision activities for the information taught in class, and can also be used to provide information about the next class to come.

Coolers are essential because, as with Warmers, they signal to students that you have your lessons well-planned and well-structured, and learners will come away from class with a summary of what was covered in that particular lesson. Coolers are also an excellent medium in which to encourage student feedback and to instigate classroom conversation.

The following 9 Warmer/Cooler activities are class-tested and class-approved:

  1. The Shark Game.

The Shark Game activity is a variation of the classic Hangman game, but instead of a person and noose, there is a person and shark. This is an excellent Warmer for introducing a lesson topic, or for use as a Cooler to identify a set of vocabulary taught in class.

Here is how the activity looks when first set up on the whiteboard:

Shark Game 1

This activity works well with all student age groups and the basic premise of this activity is to work out the hidden word before the shark eats the person, who takes a step down each time a letter is provided which doesn’t make up one of the letters in the hidden word. When playing this game with children, you could introduce pronunciation skills and extended vocabulary by prompting a word which begins with the letter suggested. For example: “A, for Apple”. It’s also fun to choose a student from the class to be the person who is taking the steps down towards the shark. Feel free to be creative with the presentation of this game, for example by giving the shark a hat and tie :)

And here is how this activity looks when (successfully) completed:

Shark Game 2

As you can see, the students wrongly guessed five letters (left column) and means that the student only had to walk six steps before the word ‘TEACH’ was guessed correctly. This time the shark goes hungry! :)

2. Whiteboard Scrabble.

Divide your students into groups — or make this a teacher-student game if teaching an individual student — and write five letters on the board, such as A, M, D, L, E. Students must write down as many words as possible, within a certain time limit, which contain some, or all five letters. After the time limit is up, write up on the board, under each team’s column, the words which they have come up with and assign a point for each letter included from the list. So in the example of our letters, ‘DAM’ would earn three points, ‘MALE’ would earn four and ‘MEDAL’ would earn five points. Students can create longer words with these letters in for extra points, such as MEDALLION, earning nine points. You can tweak the rules of the game as you like, for example prohibiting the use of a letter more than once.

3. 20 Words.

’20 Words’ is an excellent activity to use when practicing the formation of questions. One student thinks of any person, alive or dead, and the class have 20 questions in which to try and guess who the person is. The rules of the game are simple: the student can only answer “yes”, or “no”. Example questions to ask the student could be: “Is this person alive?”, “Is this person famous?”, “Does this person live in our country?”, “Is this person a man or woman?”. And so on.

4. Lovely and Horrible.

This is especially relevant for when you begin a new class. Divide your students into pairs or groups, and ask each pair or group to divide a sheet of paper into two columns: one labelled ‘Lovely’ and the other, ‘Horrible’. How to play this activity is for you to read out a list of words, and for your learners to add them either to the ‘Lovely’ column, or the ‘Horrible’ column. You can choose any words, such as ‘English’, ‘Justin Bieber’, ‘Donald Trump’, ‘Cheese’, etc. When you have finished reading out your list of words and your learners have written all the words down in either column, the class can compare their answers and see how different their tastes are. This is a great warmer to use as a classroom Icebreaker and invariably leads to humorous and sometimes heated debate.

5. Four-Word Roulette.

A wonderful Warmer which can either be used to revise vocabulary, or introduce new lexicon. This activity is perfect for individual students, or small/medium/large groups. On the board, write a four-letter word, such as ‘WALK’. Your learner(s) must then change one letter to form a new word, and so on. So with our example word ‘WALK’, you could start by adding ‘L’ instead of ‘K’, to form ‘WALL’ and then you could change the ‘W’ for a ‘B’ to form the word ‘Ball’. And so on.

6. Fortunately/Unfortunately.

This is a classic activity which you might have played yourself. It basically involves starting with a sentence storyline, such as, “I took my dog for a walk this morning”. The next student might add something like, “Unfortunately, aliens came down and kidnapped my dog”. And then, “Fortunately some more aliens landed and offered to chase the other aliens to get my dog back”. And so on. What we love about this Warmer activity is that it is so versatile when introducing or revising language tenses (which we will be covering in the Grammar sections of this course).

7. Vocabulary Olympics.

Vocabulary Olympics can be used as a Warmer to introduce new vocabulary, but works best as a Cooler to revise vocabulary and grammar lexicon covered in the class.

Here is how the activity looks when first set up on the whiteboard:

Vocabulary Olympics 1

This is an awesome activity for any age group and can easily be tweaked to increase or decrease the level of difficulty. In our example, we are using the topics of Country, Adjective, Verb, Noun and Color, but you can choose any topic you wish to have in the upper columns. For this activity it is important to separate groups, so they can’t see each other’s answers. The teacher writes down a letter, and the teams must write a Country, Adjective, Verb, Noun and Color, beginning with that letter. The first team to complete all five columns shouts out, “Finished!” and all teams must stop writing. The team to finish first adds their words to their columns, and then the other team(s) follow suit.

And here is how this activity looks when (successfully) completed:

Vocabulary Olympics 2

It must be noted that you can theoretically have as many teams playing as you wish, but for our purposes here, we have two teams playing.

The points system is quite simple:

If each team has the same word, they receive five points each.

If a team has a correct word which is different from the other team’s correct word, then they both score ten points.

If a team submits a wrong answer, or no answer at all, then they receive zero points and the other team wins fifteen points.

8. Picture Chairs.

A perfect game for revising vocabulary taught in class. Divide your class into two groups, and bring two chairs to the front of the classroom which a member of each group sits on — facing the groups, but with their backs to the whiteboard. The idea of this game is to write a word on the board and each team has one minute to describe the word to their team member in the chair, but without saying the actual word. So if the word written were ‘plane’, students might say it is a form of transport you take from an airport, and so on. If there are a more-or-less equal number of girls/boys/women/men then it’s always good to have the opposite genders compete against each other to up the level of competitiveness.

9. Alphabet Relay.

This is a highly competitive game which will have your students leaving their lesson full of beans and letting everyone know they had an amazing lesson by the loudness of their laughter in the hallways after class. This is also a very simple game to play. Start by dividing the whiteboard into two columns, and in each column write the letters of the alphabet in one or two vertical rows. Ask both groups to move to the back of the classroom and give the first student of each group a marker pen. If you were, for example, teaching food items in your class that day then the two front students in each group start running up to the board when you say, “Start!” and begin by writing a food item on their side of the board beginning with ‘A’. There cannot be identical words, so if one student writes ‘Apple’, the other student can’t also write ‘Apple’. They then run back where they hand the marker to the next student in line and it is then their turn to run to the board and write a food item for the letter ‘B’. You may want to omit some letters, such as ‘V’ or ‘X’ to make it easier, depending on your level of students.

Do you have any Cooler/Warmer activities that you would like to share with us? Feel free to share below! :)

Paul Murphy — Operations Manager — TEFL Online Pro

info@teflonlinepro.com / https://teflonlinepro.com/

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