Monday, 30 December 2013

Warmers, coolers and lesson-planning for teenagers

This was the title of a presentation given by Dave Spencer as part of the recent Macmillan Online Conference.  What follows is a summary of what he had to say.

Typical qualities of a warmer
  • Short - 'against the clock'
  • Interactive (pairs, small groups)
  • Competitive
  • Fun
  • Gets students thinking in English
  • Recycles/revises vocabulary
  • Gets students speaking - noisy!
  • Raises energy levels
Warmer - the 3-letter game

Put 3 letters on the board and tell students they have two minutes to think of as many words as they can which contain those letters (in any order).  Encourage students to think about word formation in order to increase the number of words they get.  For example,

R        T         N
train       return      north     present      presentation      presenter    presented
turn       ration       restrain  rating        nature               natural, etc.
This is a very simple warmer which can be done with every level.
Warmer - alphabet cards
Have a series of A4 size cards with the letters of the alphabet on them available for a range of activities such as these two:
1.  Class spelling - give each student a letter.  Dictate words to the class.  Students have to come to the front of the class and arrange themselves in the correct order to spell out the word.  This is physical and a good way to get students moving.
2.  Category scramble - put the cards on the floor in any order.  Shout out a category.  Students grab a card and must be ready to give a word in the category that starts with that letter. The last student to grab a letter, or a student who can't think of a word, loses a life.  This is an 'extreme warmer' with lots of movement and lots of noise!
Warmer - running dictation
The classic activity where students are in pairs.  One of them is inside the classroom, writing.  The other runs outside to read a text.  They have to remember as much of it as possible and run back to their partner who writes it down.  The first pair to reproduce the text correctly, wins.
Typical qualities of a cooler
  • Individual work
  • Involves concentration
  • Gets students thinking in English
  • Practises listening and/or writing
  • Is quiet, or even silent
  • Is slow - has a calming effect on students
Cooler - opposites dictation
Students have to write down the opposite of what you dictate.  It is up to them what they write, as long as the sentences are grammatically correct.  For example, you say:
'There was a young woman.'
The students write:
'There was an old woman.'
'There was a young man.'
'There is a young woman.'
This is a quiet activity which involves students concentrating.  When they've finished, they compare their texts - they'll be similar, but different.  You could then ask students to re-convert their text so that it matches the original.  You could use a text from the coursebook.
Cooler - DIY word search or crossword
Give students an empty word search or crossword grid and a topic and ask them to make their own puzzle.  They could just list the hidden words, give definitions, or draw picture clues.  Students can swap with a partner or they can be copied for the whole class.  Empty grids can be found online.  These are great activities as the students are doing all the work!
Some considerations in lesson-planning for teens
  1. The topics need to be relevant, but not so relevant that they'll discuss them in their L1!  Students need to be interested and focussed.
  2. There should be a variety of skills work.
  3. There needs to be a variety of interaction.
  4. You need to consider pace and timing.
  5. Include warmers and coolers.
  6. Balance - this is the key to everything!


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