warmers and fillers
WARMERS
AND FILLERS
BRITISH COUNCIL SPAIN – WARMERS AND FILLERS
www.britishcouncil.es
MESSAGE FROM...
Director Teaching Operations,
ENGLISH AND EXAMS
COUNTRY DIRECTOR
SPAIN
I began my teaching career
in Egypt, but also worked in
Barcelona. After some time
in Asia, my new post is based
in Madrid: my return finds
a challenging educational
landscape, one re-shaped by
bilingualism and technology,
met by a vibrant community of teachers. It’s
great for us to be involved in these changes:
working in over 100 countries, we rarely touch
as many lives as here. Something that never
changes, though, is the paramount importance of
class teachers and their pursuit of best practice.
I’ve made a contribution to this booklet – making
no claims to originality, but Alphabet Shopping
(page 4) really engages learners – and I’ve done
so knowing our network breathes creativity
and professionalism: 13 centres in Spain helped
with this booklet. Our Royal Charter states our
purpose as the promotion and advancement of
education. I hope this project helps fulfil some of
our obligations to friends, teachers, and learners
everywhere. Good luck with the activities –
there’s something for everyone here, I’m sure.
I’m delighted to see
this booklet go out to
you, the teachers in our
local community. Our
conferences are now
established in the academic
calendar, allowing us to
offer something of value
to those doing such great work in ELT in
Spain. In striving to improve our services,
we listen attentively to feedback gathered at
each event. One theme recurs consistently:
you, the educators, like us to provide
practical activities to enhance your teaching.
Now, taking this request to heart, we have
produced a booklet for you to keep handy in
your staffrooms across Iberia. Every idea here
comes from the vast experience of our team;
each activity has been tried and tested in our
own centres. Personally, it’s a few years since
I was in class, but old favourites stand the
test of time because they work. Give ‘Shouted
Dictation’ (page 5) a go: I promise the
learners will shout for more! My best wishes
for the coming year.
ANNA SEARLE
ROD PRYDE
OUR FAVOURITE WARMERS AND FILLERS:
ABOUT THIS BOOKLET
3
Every teacher has a warmer or filler that they really like: as an organisation, we have lots, so we
decided to share some with you. In this booklet you’ll find over 30 ideas for warmers and fillers,
all of which have come from a British Council teacher or manager – every one of our teaching
centres in Spain contributed, and we’d like to thank all of them for their efforts.
Of course, in the teaching world there’s no such thing as originality – we use ideas that spread
by word of mouth, or we adapt and change ideas we’ve read about in books. Just to clarify,
then, none of our staff claims authorship or ownership over any of these suggestions, and if
you find them in other books, so much the better – if they’re popular, they must be valid. But
we would like to apologise to anyone who has published any of these ideas before: we have not
knowingly used commercially available materials, and we would have attributed all the activities
to their originators if we could.
We haven’t ordered the activities in any way: we wouldn’t want you to look only in one ‘section’
of the booklet because you are, say, a teacher of adult English. It may be that by flicking
through Primary and Secondary tasks, you find something that you can use, or at least adapt,
to your own context. Be sure to experiment, and you’ll be sure to find your rewards. And what’s
the difference between a warmer and a filler? Very often it’s in how we choose to use tasks:
generally speaking, a warmer is something you do at the start of class to get learners switching
from L1 habits into L2, while a filler is something you use to change pace, vary patterns of
interaction, or use to usefully exploit 10 minutes at the end of class. So try them out, and don’t
be afraid to ask your learners which ones they like.
Martin Goosey
ATCM Professional Development
British Council Madrid Young Learners
Llanos Gomez
Communications Manager
British Council Spain
ALPHABET SHOPPING
Contributed by: Anna Searle
Learning Objective: Recycling irregular
past tense (went/bought/found) and revising
vocabulary around shopping/things we own.
Age: Any age above Junior, but works best
with teens.
Level: Elementary
Interaction: Whole class
Class Time: 10 minutes (can be extended for
more vocabulary).
Preparation/Time: None! You can prepare
some pictures of previously introduced
vocabulary around things we own, shopping but
good to let the students use their own examples
for a more genuine shopping experience.
Procedure: Line up around the room (sitting or
standing, but with teens, it’s good to get them
standing up to add movement to the warmer).
Do not explain the game, other than listen to
what I say, and choose an item you want to
buy at market when it is your turn. If you get
it right, you remain standing up, if you get it
wrong, you will have to sit down. When you
have worked out what the theme is, shout out!
Teacher leads with “I went to market and I
bought…” (name item bought) e.g. an apple.
Student 1 follows “I went to market and I
bought…” (names item – see variations below)
e.g. a banana.
Teacher “Yes good, next.”
Student 2 follows “I went to market and I
bought…” (names item) e.g. a carrot.
Teacher “Yes good, next.”
Student 3 follows “I went to market and
bought …” e.g. dog food.
Teacher “Yes good, next.”
Student 4 follows “I went to market and
bought…” e.g. shoes.
Teacher “No, sorry, sit down.”
Student 5 follows “I went to market and
bought …” e.g. some earplugs for my iPod.
Teacher “Yes good, next.”
The theme here is listing in alphabetical order
the items they say they buy, if a student doesn’t
follow the alphabetical order, they sit down. Most
groups can guess the theme is alphabetical by
letter G or H, which is good as things to buy gets
more difficult further down the alphabet! You can
then continue with the alphabet with the rest of
the class, and invite the students who sat down
to stand up and join in again, in alphabetical
order until they have all practised the simple
phrase and added a vocab item. You can also
use this warmer to work on the pronunciation of
difficult past tense irregular verbs.
Variations: To add variety, choose different
themes for the sequence: instead of
alphabetic choose only vegetables, or only
fruit, or only clothes items. The students need
to work out the theme behind the sequence.
Another variety is to use other relevant past
tense irregular verbs “I went to the zoo and
saw….” (an alligator), “I went to a party and
met …” (someone from Angola) for countries,
nationalities, etc.
Further Commentary: These can get difficult
further down the alphabet so be ready to
help out or skip some letters!
SHOUTED DICTATION
Contributed by: Rod Pryde
Learning Objective: To have fun and
practise real-life listening.
Age: Senior, Adult
Level: Any
Interaction: One class in two teams.
Class Time: About 10 minutes.
Preparation/Time: Minimal - just select texts
and prepare marking guidance.
Procedure: Divide class in two groups (e.g.
red and blue), then into same-colour pairs,
then give one of each pair a short dictation
text appropriate to level and recent learning.
Next place one of each pair at opposite ends
of room.
Give five or ten minute timeframe. Start
dictation one pair to another, all simultaneously
(shouting). Stop at end of time period. Collect
texts, hand out marking grid, opposite teams
mark, add up points, announce winning team.
Restore order or exit discreetly.
5
ALPHABET RACE
Contributed by: Marielisa de la Mata
Learning Objective: Lexis, Practice,
Structures. (High levels – word building; using
suffixes, collocations, etc.)
Age: Primary, Junior, Senior
Level: Any
Interaction: A race/Teamwork
Class Time: As long as it takes : 20 minutes
usually.
Preparation/Time: Chalk, board pen, music
e.g. prepare flipchart, print cut-outs (10
minutes).
Procedure: Basically this is an Alphabet
race which means you put students into two
teams and write two sets of the letters of the
alphabet on different sides of the board that
you want them to practise. Students are sitting
in their places and it is mandatory that they be
sitting when they get passed the piece of chalk
or IWB pen or they are penalised. Tell them
this 2 or 3 times. Then tell students in what
order they’ll run up to the board and that they
must write a word starting with that letter of
the alphabet. I usually start with A and go on to
the next letter consecutively. If they can’t think
of a word with that letter I let them go on to
the next. Start by handing the first 2 students
the chalk/pen and play the Chihuahua song,
which is the cue to run up to the board. They
really enjoy it and you can practise all kinds of
lexis, structures, irregular verbs, etc.
Variations: Adapt it to higher levels if you
want to; like FCE affixes, collocations, etc.
TWENTY QUESTIONS
Contributed by: Leticia López
Learning Objective: Asking questions /
Practising short answers
Age: Any
Level: Any
Interaction: Group work
Class Time: It’s a filler; maybe at the end of
the class when they’ve tidied up.
Preparation/Time: None. You only need a
whiteboard and a marker to note down the
number of questions they make. (Maximum
20 minutes).
Procedure: One person in the class thinks of
something (or someone) and the rest of the
group has to ask yes/no questions (up to 20
questions) to guess it.
Variations: To practise short answers,
the person answering the questions is not
allowed to say “yes” or “no” and he/she can
only answer with an appropriate answer. i.e.
alternative ways of doing the task.
Further Commentary: It may be used with all
ages/levels as students can decide to make
simple or complicated questions. It can also be
used for reviewing vocabulary see in class.
WORDIA WORK
Contributed by: John Liddy
Learning Objective: If connected log on to
http:/wordia.com/options: latest word, games /
video. Good way of getting students to focus
on language learning at start of lesson.
Age: All ages depending on word. Teacher
can choose word or students can.
Level: Any
Interaction: Whole class or groups.
Class Time: 10-15 minutes
Preparation/Time: None except for some
basic instructions.
Procedure: Open Wordia, choose word or
video or game.
Variations: Teacher can prepare word
beforehand. Can be used without internet
connection. Use dictionaries if you want.
Further Commentary: Helps students to
build up vocabulary lists.
PERSONAL SPIDERGRAMS
Contributed by: Justin Hodge
Learning Objective: Get to know you / Yes /
No questions.
Age: Junior +
Level: Elementary and above
Interaction: Teacher to whole class, then in
pairs.
Class Time: 10-40 minutes
Preparation/Time: 5 minutes
Procedure: Write your name in the middle of
the board. Start a spider chart around it with
people, places, dates, hobbies, pets, etc. that
are related to you. Tell students to guess the
relationships, but you can only answer “yes”
or “no”. Ask students in pairs to do the same
with fewer people, places, dates, etc.
Variations: 5-10 people, etc.
Further Commentary: Useful to tell the class
about yourself. Make sure students have
formed question correctly.
PASS THE WORD
Contributed by: Silvia Girimonti
Learning Objective: To practise vocabulary
Age: Any
Level: Any
Interaction: Group work
Class Time: 5-15 mins.
Preparation/Time: Simply select the lexical/
grammar area you want to practise/revise
Procedure: Teacher or one student takes
a ball (tennis ball for example), says the first
word/phrase to be revised (for example
irregular verbs) pass the ball to another
student who has to say a word and pass the
ball again. The ball can’t be stopped for more
than 15 seconds.
Variations: Instead of a ball, students can write
words on a piece of paper and pass it round.
7
ALIBI
Contributed by: Richard Pickup
Learning Objective: Use imagination,
elaboration, spontaneous English, past
continuous tense.
Age: Upper Juniors/Seniors/Adults
Level: Intermediate up.
Interaction: Individuals to the whole class.
Class Time: 10 minutes.
Preparation/Time: 1 or 2 minutes to start
imagining.
Procedure:
1. Students think about what they were doing
last Friday.
2. Ask students to elaborate/make up a
strange story.
3. Teacher accuses someone of a murder.
4. Students have to give excuse/alibi and
accuse each other.
Variations: Drama – reactions, gasps!
Pointing, standing up in surprise/disgust.
Further Commentary: The more elaborate
the excuses/alibis, the better.
CONVERSATION STARTERS
Contributed by: Sylvia Pavlakovich
Learning Objective: To practise fluency
Age: Junior, Senior, Adult
Level: Intermediate +
Interaction: Pairs
Class Time: 10 minutes
Preparation/Time: Print cut-outs: have
unusual or funny conversation starters
written on them.
Procedure: Cut-outs have unusual or funny
conversation starters written on them. In pairs,
students take turns to read out their openers.
Their partner has to respond in a convincing way.
Variations: This exercise can be timed,
i.e. 30 seconds to respond or maintain a
conversation.
BACKS TO THE BOARD
Contributed by: Jenny Dale
Learning Objective: To revise vocabulary
Age: Any
Level: Any
Preparation/Time: None
Procedure: Students sit with backs to board
and mime word and team guess it. Students
brainstorm words and write them down and
then describe them to partner, according to
topic being worked on at time.
Variations: Groups of 2/3 or 4.
FLASHCARDS
Contributed by: Cheryl Kirkland
Learning Objective: Revise vocabulary and
grammatical structures (questions).
Age: Primary/Junior
Level: Beginner and Elementary
Interaction: Whole class
Class Time: 10 minutes
Preparation/Time: Flashcards from course
book or make your own.
Procedure: One student chooses a flashcard
and the class have to guess what it is (e.g. “Is
it a rabbit? Can you jump? Have you got an
apple? Do you like cheese?”)
Variations: Split class into 2/3 groups or in
pairs.
PAIR INTERVIEWS
Contributed by: Misa de la Mata
Learning Objective: Question forms/
Breaking the ice/students revise question
forms.
Age: Senior
Level: Upper Intermediate
Interaction: Pair work
Class Time: 30 minutes
Preparation/Time: None (graph up on
board).
Procedure: Get students to look at board,
graph – sequence, order of questions. Then
in pairs must write 6 (interesting questions).
Interview partner. Follow up: homework:
writing a profile on partner.
Variations: Put example questions on
cards, pass them around (get an idea of the
question).
Further Commentary: NOT “What is your
favourite colour?” Arghh!!!
THE JUMPING GAME
Contributed by: Devin Unwin
Learning Objective: Revision which appeals
to kinaesthetic learners.
Age: Primary to young seniors
Level: Any
Interaction: Teacher to students (whole
class).
Class Time: 5-7 minutes
Preparation/Time: Yes or no, depending
on what level it is and what media you’ve
chosen.
Procedure: Get students to stand in a line/
queue in front of the white board. Write
‘Yes’ on one side of the board and ‘No’ on
the other. Ask students comprehension
questions on a previously watched video or
read book.
Variations: Alternatively, at a higher level
you could ask for opinions: “Bull fighting is
an art form”; “Women cook better than men”,
etc. You could write ‘Maybe’ in the middle
section of the board
(in this case students would only be allowed
not to jump 3 times, otherwise they might not
move at all!)
Further Commentary: Good fun. Would
need a willing ‘older’ group obviously!
9
STICKWORDS
Contributed by: Rebecca Mercer
Learning Objective: Spelling previously
introduced vocabulary.
Age: Young learners mainly, but I’m sure
older ones and adults would enjoy it just as
much.
Level: Any
Interaction: Pair work
Class Time: 10 minutes
Preparation/Time: Buy a box of toothpicks
/ cocktail sticks and prepare a list of +/- 5
words.
Procedure: Give out generous bundles of
sticks to each pair. Read out a word from list.
Students spell the words on desks using the
sticks. Award points for correct spelling and
speed. The pair with most points wins.
Further Commentary: Demonstrate activity
first for YLs showing them easiest way
to form letters. Sticks cannot be broken.
Students must use capitals only.
DIDYA?
Contributed by: John Macmillan
Learning Objective: Practise past simple
questions / Revise leisure activity vocabulary.
Age: Any
Level: Pre-intermediate
Interaction: Pair work or milling activity with
whole class.
Class Time: 15 minutes
Preparation/Time: None
Procedure: Students work in pairs and ask
their partner yes/no questions to find out
about their plans. They note down the activity
they ask, and put a tick or a cross to record
whether their partner did it or not, e.g. “Did
you… watch TV?”. – “No, I didn’t.” “Did you…
wash the dishes?” – “Yes, I did.”
When each student has a list of activities that
his partner has or hasn’t done, they report to
a different partner, or to the class,
e.g.“Raquel didn’t watch TV at the weekend.
She washed the dishes. She didn’t go to the
cinema…”
Variations: This activity can be used to
drill other structures such as the present
continuous – talking about plans for the
coming weekend/holiday.
E.g. “Are you… going clubbing this weekend?”
You can also use the structure “Have you
ever… been to Moscow?”
Instead of doing the activity in groups of two,
it can be turned into a milling activity. Students
first write a list of activities to ask others, and
they keep tally marks to see how many people
in the class have done the activity. They
then report back the most popular and least
popular activities for that weekend.
REGISTERS
Contributed by: Sheona Smith
Learning Objective: To create an
appropriate atmosphere for learning; to
establish classroom routines and change
over from playground, dining hall, etc.; to
revise previously introduced vocabulary and
promote learner autonomy
Age: Primary (lower age range).
Level: Beginner upwards
Interaction: Group work
Class Time: 10-15 minutes
Preparation/Time: Flashcards to be used or
pinned up, register, etc.
Procedure: It is essential that the teacher
establishes the routine for several classes
before handing over to the students.
Stage 1: Have students come in to class,
leave bags, pencil cases, etc. on desks and
come to sit cross-legged in a circle together
with teacher. It’s important that the teacher
sits at the same height as the students.
Stage 2: Selected student takes the register
by calling out the names of the students
and asking them to provide a word from a
topic specified by the teacher. Student says
“Today’s topic is Food - Guilllem Sastre”.
Guillem responds with any food item he can
think of.
Stage 3: The same student then takes over
the role of teacher following the same routine
as would the teacher, i.e. holding up the
flashcards to elicit from students or pointing
to them if they have been put up round the
room.
Variations: Rather than have students take
register, the students can be shown how to
do simple yoga movements, i.e. stretching
arms, legs and rolling shoulders which they
then go on to lead. Each class a different
student is selected by moving down the
register.
This activity can also be done at the end of
class to do a plenary type of activity where
students reflect on what they have learned
and can remember from the lesson.
The exercise type can be changed to something
more dynamic should the students look tired.
Further Commentary: This is a simple but
very effective way of getting the children
into the right frame of mind for the class.
The students appreciate being given the
responsibility to lead the class and the fact
that each student has an opportunity to
act as teacher maintains the novelty of the
activity. It is important that the teacher also
participates and follows the indications of the
‘substitute teacher’. This helps to create a
feeling of equality and confidence.
11
GUESSING PICTURES
Contributed by: Jennie Gant
Learning Objective: To practise asking and
answering questions about things you did in
the past.
Age: Any
Level: From Pre-intermediate up to Advanced
Interaction: Pair work
Class Time: 10-15 minutes
Preparation/Time: Nothing – all the material
comes from the students (hooray!)
Procedure: Ask students to take a pencil and
divide a page in their notebooks into four
squares. Then students (keeping their work
secret and showing nobody) choose a square
and in it they should draw a picture or a
symbol which shows something that they did
yesterday. Give them a minute to think and
draw (and go around the class whispering
possibilities to anyone stuck for an idea, e.g.
if they did their homework, they could draw a
book and a pen – but no words).
Then ask the students to choose another
square and draw something to represent
something really great they did last month.
Then another square and another sketch for
something they did but they hated last year
and finally the last square is for sketching
something to represent the best thing they
have ever done in their entire lives!
Remind students that there should be no
words on their page of sketches and allow
for a moment of frantic rubbing out. Then
ask students to find a partner. (So you have a
room full of pairs – A and B.) Student A should
take Student B’s pictures and talk to B about
them, guessing aloud what they might mean.
(Student B should remain silent and allow A
to guess, however wrong she gets it!) Then
they switch roles and it’s Student B’s turn to
look at A’s sketches and have a guess.
You should monitor unobtrusively here – a
great chance to note down general errors
which can be worked on later in the lesson.
Then ask the class to stop guessing and
start asking. Students try to find out what
their partner’s activities really were by asking
questions to which their partner may only reply
with a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’ (i.e. Student A asks “Did you
go to the beach last month?” Student B replies
“No”). Teacher monitors – another chance to
see if you need to work on question formulation.
Finally you say “OK, you may explain now”.
Student A can finally tell B about her pictures
and then B can talk about his. (Depending
on the level and type of class, this usually
generates some great conversation, as
having tried to work out what the pictures
mean, students are very interested in what
they really mean.)
Variations: You can tell students to
remember what they hear in the last stage
and then have students switch partners and
tell their new partner all about their previous
partner’s past, or develop this into a written
piece where names are not mentioned. Put
the writings on the wall the next lesson and
students go around the classroom reading
them and trying to guess who did what. Or
you could use the information you have
heard to create a mingle activity for another
lesson, where students have to talk to all the
others in the class and find out who has been
skydiving or who went to a football match
and hated it….
Further Commentary: I first saw an
exercise like this in a training session and
I enjoyed doing it myself. I have changed
it a little bit and used it a lot. I like this
activity as it’s very personalised, with
all the details coming from the students
themselves and it gives them a chance to
1
talk about things that happened in their
past and ask for details of situations in the
past of someone else, which is a very usual
type of conversation between friends or
new acquaintances; so this type of practise
should be really useful in preparing our
students for authentic situations they find
themselves in outside of the classroom, too.
3. Open the papers and try and guess who
got each present.
4. Check your answers as a group.
5. Encourage students to ask questions about
the presents and around this, the holiday too.
Further Commentary: Works very well if
students write interesting presents on the
paper!
THE POST CHRISTMAS WARMER
Contributed by: Lesley Denham
Learning Objective: To talk about holidays
and change chip back to English after the
break.
Age: Adult/Senior
Level: Any
Interaction: Pair or Group work or Individual
Class Time: 15-20 minutes depending on
how much the students get involved in it!
Preparation/Time: None – you just need
paper.
Procedure: Give each group some paper
which they tear into the same number of
pieces as there are students in the group.
1. Each student writes one present they got
over the holiday on their piece of paper.
Ask them not to put ‘money’ or something
very general if possible.
2. Fold the papers and pass them on to the
next group.
WORD CARD FILLERS
Contributed by: Lesley Denham
Learning Objective: Recycle vocabulary
either from a vocabulary list, vocabulary box,
or vocabulary from a unit.
Age: Adult
Level: Any
Interaction: Pair or Group work or Individual.
Class Time: However long you need while
another group is finishing an exercise. Also
to use while waiting for students to arrive for
class.
Preparation/Time: None – you just need
the words form the list/unit/box. It is better if
you have the words on card so they can be
handed out to students. E.g. prepare flipchart,
print cut-outs (10 minutes).
Procedure: If you have the words on cards,
then they can be recycled in many ways and
used as a filler or when you need to wait for
groups to finish exercises, etc. Very low tech!
13
Give each pair/group a pile of words and
they can do any of the following:
1. Put them face down and take turns to
define the words so the other students can
guess the word on the card. If they don’t
know the word on the card, they put it
back and take another.
2. Put cards face down. One student picks
up a card and makes a sentence using the
word. Next student takes a card and has
to continue to make a story building on
the first sentence and incorporating their
word. This continues.
3. One student in teacher role ‘tests’ the
other students giving definitions of the
words and the others have to say what the
word is on the card.
4. Put cards face up. Student picks a card
and gives a definition. The others decide if
it is correct or not.
5. Put cards face down and a student picks
up a card and has to mime the meaning so
the others can guess.
6. Put cards face down and a student picks
up a card and has to draw the meaning so
the others can guess.
7. Put cards face up and students put them in
order according to their favourite words.
Further Commentary: This works well if you
say goodbye to the words every term. To
make sure students have a copy of the words
from each term, allow time for groups/pairs
to write a test (having distributed the words
among them) for the other pairs/groups.
This test can be in the form of matching
definitions, filling in gaps, matching pictures
and words, etc., but is written and corrected
by the students. They then keep a copy of
the tests as a record of the vocabulary.
THE HOMEWORK GRID
Contributed by: Mark Bowthorpe
Learning Objective: Review/consolidate
homework or classroom exercise.
Age: 10+
Level: Any
Interaction: Individual and group work
Class Time: Up to 30 minutes
Preparation/Time: None – only drawing the
grid on the whiteboard (or use a pre-boarded
grid, which would take longer).
Procedure: For homework or in the previous
class students need to have done a grammar
or vocabulary exercise and not corrected it.
Teacher draws a grid of 16 squares on the
board (4 by 4).
Teacher numbers grid using same numbering
as homework/classwork exercise, e.g. 1a,
1b, 1c, 2a, 2b, etc., so that each square
corresponds to question.
1
Divide class into 2 or 3 teams.
Teams have 5 minutes to compare answers
and agree on most likely answer. Teams take
it in turns to nominate a question and give
the correct answer. If the answer is correct,
the team wins that square on the grid and the
next team takes a turn. If the answer is wrong,
the teacher doesn’t correct and the next team
takes a turn. The objective is for teams to
win three squares in a row by answering the
corresponding questions correctly.
Continue until all questions are answered
correctly or have a time limit.
Variations: For a shorter or longer warmer,
vary the size of the grid.
Can be also be done without a previous
task. Just write up questions on the board or
provide on a handout. Can be focused on any
area of grammar / vocabulary. Can also be
used with Cambridge exam type materials as
a light-hearted variation on the usual approach,
i.e. alternative ways of doing the task.
Further Commentary: Give time limits to
keep it snappy.
Age: Any
Level: Any
Interaction: Pair or group work
Class Time: 10-15 minutes
Preparation/Time: Give the students a
template of a bingo grid, for example 3 x 3
squares. Dice for variations.
Procedure: Focusing on previously
introduced vocabulary or grammar, tell the
students to complete the bingo grid, e.g.
“complete the grid with different types of
natural disasters” or “complete the grid with
things you would do if you won the lottery”.
Once students have completed the grid, read
out different answers. Students cross out
any of their answers that are read out. Make
the activity competitive by attributing points
to teams who cross out a line and then the
entire box. This variation practises receptive
and productive skills.
Variations: Students complete the grid and
then number the squares (1 to 9). Roll the
dice (on the IWB if you have one). Students
race to raise their hands and shout out their
answers, crossing off the box if it is correct
(if you wish, other groups listen and cross off
what is said, should they have it). This gives
the students the opportunity of producing
their answers orally and also allows for even
participation as teams cannot read out their
15
BINGO GRIDS
Contributed by: Dan Ashton
Learning Objective: Receptive and
productive revision of previously introduced
vocabulary and grammar.
answer, for box number 5, for example, if
they have already done so.
When working with a specific grammar
point, such as phrasal verbs or idiomatic
expressions, students can complete the grid,
for example, with phrasal verbs beginning
with ‘put’. Then students number the boxes
1-9. Roll the (IWB) dice. Students race to raise
their hands and give an example sentence of
the phrasal verb in the box. If their example
is correct, students cross off the box.
Further Commentary: This activity is highly
adaptable and can be used for all levels and
ages. The competitive element encourages
student participation. The task can be as
controlled or as free as you want, depending
on the level and task objective.
BOARD SWATTING
Contributed by: Suzanne Anderson
Learning Objective: To give receptive
practice of new vocabulary (I normally do this
activity at the end of the lesson).
Age: Primary
Level: Beginner up
Interaction: Group work
Class Time: 10 minutes
Preparation/Time: 1 minute
Procedure: Write new lexical items on board
(this could be on a prepared IWB flipchart).
Put students into teams, in a line in front of
the board. The people at the front of the lines
have a fly swatter (or a ruler will do). Teacher
describes the word or expression and the
first person to swat the word/phrase gets a
point. The team with the most points wins.
Variations: I normally do this with new
vocabulary but have used it with past simple
verbs too (write the past simple verbs on the
board but say the infinitives).
CONVERSATION CIRCLES
Contributed by: Kevin McLeod
Learning Objective: Ice breaker / get to
know you / question forms.
Age: Any
Level: Pre-Intermediate upwards
Interaction: Pair work
Class Time: 10-15 minutes
Preparation/Time: Depends on level: could
be 1 minute or less to 5 minutes or more for
lower levels.
Procedure: Split class into 2 even numbered
groups and get them to form 2 circles: an
inner circle looking outwards and the outer
circle looking inwards at the person in the
other circle. Students are paired up and
have to ask and answer a question with
their partner. These can be on their learning
experience, reason for learning, main problems
1
with English, tips on how to improve, etc.
or other areas such as get to know your
classmate, holidays, free time activities, etc.
Teacher has a bell and rings it every couple
of minutes to let the outer circle move round
one person so people are working with a new
partner. A couple of minutes with them and
move on and continue until all pairs have been
together.
Variations: Can follow up with feedback from
students on interesting info they have heard
and/or from teacher on any mistakes.
Further Commentary: Fun and lots of
speaking generated.
The teacher can read aloud the definition
of a catchphrase on the sheet to the class.
In groups students have a maximum of 10
minutes to explain to their colleagues, or
guess the meaning of the catchphrases. At
the end of this time the teacher can get some
class feedback regarding the meanings. The
students now unfold the paper and can read
the meanings of the catchphrases with the
teacher answering any questions the students
may have.
Variations: At the end of the activity,
students can think of some catchphrases
popular in their language, and explain their
meaning to the class. The class or the
teacher may, or may not, be able to think of
an equivalent catchphrase in English.
Further Commentary:
Catchprases
A catchphrase in its purest form is one that
has caught on with the public and which
might have been first said by an entertainer,
or which might have developed through
repeated use. Sometimes they can verge on
proverbs, others can sound more like slogans
while others are funny when used in the right
context.
Here are some common catchphrases. Do
you know, or can you guess when they might
be used?
17
CATCHPHRASES
Contributed by: Thomas McWhirter
Learning Objective: To promote deducing
meaning from common catchphrases.
Age: Senior and Adult
Level: Upper-intermediate and above
Interaction: Group work
Class Time: 10-15 minutes
Preparation/Time: To print sheets
(5 minutes)
Procedure: Put students into groups of 3 or
4. Give each student a sheet with 8 common
catchphrases. Ask the students to fold the
paper along the dotted line so that they
cannot see the meanings of the catchphrases.
1. The buck stops here.
2. To cry all the way to the bank.
3. Happy as a sandboy.
4. Keeping up with the Joneses.
5. Always the bridesmaid but never the bride.
6. It isn’t over till the fat lady sings.
7. It would be cheap at half the price.
8. There’s life in the old dog yet.
---- Fold goes here ---1. The buck stops here - This is where the
ultimate responsibility lies. Harry S. Truman
had these words on a sign on his desk in
the oval office.
2. To cry all the way to the bank - To be in
a position to ignore criticism because of
your financial position. This expression was
popularized by Liberace when his reviews
were bad.
3. Happy as a sandboy - Very happy with
one’s lot. Arising from the expectation
that boys who used to deliver sand from
door to door had a useful job and could be
contented.
4. Keeping up with the Joneses - Striving
not to be outdone by one’s neighbours.
Comes from the title of a comic strip which
appeared in the New York Globe from
1913-31.
5. Always the bridesmaid but never the
bride - Always the runner-up but never
the winner. From a slogan for Listerine
mouthwash in the 1920s.
6. It isn’t over till the fat lady sings - A
warning not to count your chickens
until they are hatched. It possibly has
something to do with Kate Smith singing
God Bless America at the end of baseball
games in the 1930s.
7. It would be cheap at half the price – Very
reasonable. A slightly nonsensical phrase,
dating probably from the 19th century.
8. There’s life in the old dog yet – Said of the
unexpected possessor of some power
when that person is thought to be ‘past
it’. It was used as the title of a painting in
1838 by Sir Edward Landseer.
TIMED TOPICS
Contributed by: Greg Gobel
Learning Objective: For learners to practice
speaking fluently about topics they are
interested in.
Age: Junior, Senior, Adult
Level: Pre-intermediate and above
Interaction: Pair work
Class Time: 10 minutes
Preparation/Time: No preparation time
Materials: Whiteboard, whiteboard pen, 1 die.
1
Procedure:
1. Put 1,2,3,4,5,6 in a column down the left
side of the board.
2. Elicit from the students topics that they like
to talk about with their friends (e.g. football,
shopping, the weekend, last weekend,
environmental problems, my smartphone’s
apps, etc.).
3. Quickly write the first six topics the
students say – 1 for each number.
4. Roll the die and tell the students they have
1 minute (or 30 seconds, 45 seconds, or
up to 2 minutes – vary the time according
to students’ ability/level). Cross out that
topic on the board.
5. Students talk about the topic with their
partner for the designated time. While
students talk to each other, the teacher
monitors and collects mistakes or uses of
good language and saves these for later.
6. Teacher calls “Stop!” and quickly gets
feedback from a few students. (Ask, “What
did your partner say about __topic__?”)
7. Do steps 4-6 for a few more topics.
8. Present a few uses of good language
to praise the class. Then board a few
mistakes for the class to correct.
Variations: You can feed useful expressions or
question forms if you want a specific language
focus in addition to the fluency practice.
Further Commentary: You can do this
activity as a warmer, filler, or extra activity at
the end of a lesson.
You can feed topics into the list if you want a
specific topic (maybe related to the lesson’s
theme, or a theme from a recent lesson).
19
THE LIE GAME
Contributed by: Frank O’Connor
Learning Objective: Question Formation
Age: Adults or adolescents
Level: Pre-intermediate and higher
Interaction: Pairs (or small groups)
Class Time: 15 minutes +
Preparation/Time: A few minutes preteaching words/phrases about lying, e.g. tell
a lie, tell the truth, you’re a liar!, a white lie;
then talk about when you lie.
Procedure: Each student chooses 3
numbers from 1-10 and writes them down
secretly. Then give out the questions. In
pairs, students ask and answer the questions
but they must lie when answering the
numbers they have been chosen. Their
partner must guess which answers are
untrue. Students can ask as many questions
as they like to find out more details, e.g. No.1
– “What did you steal? How did you feel?
When did you do it? Did you get caught? Did
you do it alone?” Etc.
Variations: You can vary the questions to
suit your group/level.
Further Commentary: Called ‘The Lie
Game’, this is more of a filler than a warmer
– probably a bit too long for the latter. I
can’t remember where it originated but this
a version I’ve adapted, and it’s never failed
me in class. Good for the start of the course.
Here are the questions:
1. Have you ever stolen anything?
2. Have you ever been to France?
3. What’s your favourite kind of weather?
4. Who’s your favourite pop star?
5. Do you like English?
6. How often do you have a shower or bath?
7. What’s your favourite football team?
8. Can you play an instrument?
9. What job would you like to do in the future?
10. Have you ever cheated in an English
exam?
THE ALPHABET MYSTERY
Contributed by: Aidan Holland
Learning Objective: To revise previously
taught lexical sets / To get students thinking
in English.
Age: Any
Level: Could be done with most levels.
Interaction: Teacher led at whole class level.
Class Time: 5-10 minutes
Preparation/Time: None
Procedure:
1. Ask students how the words are organised
in a dictionary. You might want to
check this concept with the students to
check everyone has understood what
alphabetical order is.
2. Tell students that you are going to play a
short game as a class in which it is important
to think about the alphabetical order of
words.
3. Now, tell the students you are thinking
of a word and ask them to guess what it
is. Tell them they have a limited number
of guesses, say 10-12. The students take
turns to guess the mystery word and as
they make guesses the teacher writes the
words in one of two columns on the board.
The teacher should write them in the left
hand column if the word comes before
the mystery word alphabetically and in the
right if it comes after the mystery word.
WORDBUILDER GAME
Contributed by: Anne Fairfield
Learning Objective: To introduce a topic /
To revise vocabulary.
Age: Any
Level: Any
Interaction: Team work
2
Class Time: 5 minutes
Preparation/Time: Teacher divides board
in 2 (even better if you have 2 boards or
an old fashioned blackboard with leaves
that can be opened and closed) and
writes a word vertically in each half of the
board.
Procedure: Divide class into 2 teams.
Show students the word and, if necessary
elicit the theme / topic. One student from
each team, in turn, comes to the board
and writes a word connected to the theme.
The student’s word must include one of
the letters from the teacher’s word. E.g.
The theme is ‘Jobs’. The teacher writes the
word EMPLOYMENT on the board vertically.
Students have to write the names of jobs
beginning with ‘E‘ (Engineer), ending in
(judgE), or including any of the letters
(hairdrEsser), around the vertical word. It is
not necessary to start with the first letter
(E): students can choose whichever letter
they want.
Level: Intermediate and higher (A2.2+).
Interaction: Normally done in groups but can
be done in pairs.
Class Time: 10-15 minutes
Preparation/Time: 2 minutes (finding the
best words from the previous lesson/s).
Procedure: Teacher puts 3-6 words on the
board that are typically difficult. Students
work in groups to invent a story. Teacher
circulates to confirm that they are using the
words correctly. Afterwards, volunteers can
read their stories/teacher gives feedback on
words that are still causing trouble or gives
additional examples.
Variations: Students can change groups
after inventing a story and they report their
stories to the new group.
Further Commentary: This exercise works
well with groups that tend to trickle into the
classroom little by little at the beginning of
the class period. Latecomers are told to join
groups that have already started.
21
WORD STORIES
Contributed by: Mary Frances Litzler
Learning Objective: Revise previously
introduced vocabulary.
Age: I do this with adults but it could be done
with younger learners (adolescents).
SUN AND MOON
Contributed by: Martin Stanley
Learning Objective: Get the blood
circulating and tongues loosened.
Age: Any
Level: Any
Interaction: Teacher-led whole group work.
Class Time: 5-10 mins
Preparation/Time: 1 to 2 minutes
Procedure:
1. Get students on their feet and huddle
together.
2. Explain you’re going to call out 2 words,
e.g. ‘Dogs’ and ‘Cats’ and that ‘Dogs’ are on
the left-hand side of the room and ‘Cats’
the right.
3. Explain that students should follow their
instincts (if you have to spell it out, then
give an example: “Maybe you like cats or
have a cat…”)
4. Once students have divided, start
questioning their choices with provocative
questions or statements: “Come on David,
dogs are stupid!” or “Dogs are more loyal,
cats just scratch you!”
5. Huddle again and repeat with different pair.
6. Repeat with 2 or 3 pairs.
NB Good pairs include ‘Countryside/City’,
‘Beer/Wine’, ‘Sun/Moon’.
Variations: It could be tied into the lesson
topic. For example, if the topic is sport then
you could have pairs such as ‘Watching/
Playing’, ‘Team sports/Individual Sports’.
You could get a student or students
to prepare the game or have them
suggest pairs.
STRANGE PRESENTS
Contributed by: Jessica Knight
Learning Objective: Practising Functions:
thanking & explaining use of English /
Cultural Awareness: ‘British Politeness’.
Age: Any
Level: A2 and above.
Interaction: Group work
Class Time: 10-15 minutes
Preparation/Time: Prepare and cut up
papers – 5-10 minutes.
Procedure:
1. Students sit in a circle and cards with
strange presents (e.g. a ‘a bucket with a
hole in it’; ‘the back end of a stage horse
costume’) are dealt out among them.
2. Teacher explains that today is everybody’s
birthday.
3. Students take turns to give their presents
to others who must then: a) thanks them
profusely, and b) explain why the present
is perfect for them.
4. If the other students are convinced they
keep the gift. The student with the most
presents at the end wins.
Variations: Imaginative students can invent
the presents themselves.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE WARMER OR FILLER?
We began this project as a way to present you directly with some practical classroom activities. Now,
in the spirit of mutual respect, we’d like to ask you what yours are. If we receive enough new ideas,
we hope to produce another booklet in time for our own annual teachers’ conference, this year to
be held simultaneously in Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao and Valencia on Saturday, September 29.
We have two places you can leave your favourite warmer and filler ideas with us:
• Send us a message on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/BritishCouncilSpain
• Alternatively, you can send us an e-mail directly to: [email protected]
Many thanks! We look forward to hearing your warmers and fillers, and to seeing you at our
conference in September. Keep visiting our website www.britishcouncil.es for information on
professional development opportunities.
Alcalá de Henares ❘ T 91 885 51 56 ❘ [email protected]
Alcobendas ❘ T 91 659 28 79 ❘ [email protected]
Barcelona – Amigó ❘ T 93 241 99 77 ❘ [email protected]
Barcelona – Bonanova ❘ T 93 253 19 00 ❘ [email protected]
Bilbao ❘ T 94 476 36 50 ❘ [email protected]
Las Rozas ❘ T 91 636 18 64 ❘ [email protected]
Madrid Adults ❘ T 91 337 35 01 ❘ [email protected]
Madrid Young Learners ❘ T 91 337 35 93 ❘ [email protected]
Palma de Mallorca ❘ T 97 117 25 50 ❘ [email protected]
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Somosaguas ❘ T 91 337 36 36 ❘ [email protected]
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Valencia ❘ T 96 339 29 80 ❘ [email protected]
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