Friday, 7 March 2014

Dan's Favourite Warmer

As a follow up to my ‘throw the ball game’ blog entry, I thought I’d say a few words about my favourite warmer. It’s called (drum roll, please ...) ‘have a chat’.

It’s where I chat. With the students.

You could consider that this isn’t really an activity at all as such but rather just an insignificant start of a lesson. I would beg to differ!

The classroom is often not a place where real English conversation often takes place. We ask our students to do role plays and practise conversations that mirror the outside world but are not actually ‘real’ when they are doing them. 

We create false environments (at the post office, in a job interview, in a meeting etc.) so our students can practise safely within the confines of the classroom in preparation for the outside world. The informal chat that we conduct at the start of a lesson, ‘How are you?’ ‘How was the weekend?’ ‘Is your leg better?!’ etc. is one of the few times that we engage in real conversation. This;

  •          Improves student confidence
  •          Shows that the teacher cares about the student as an individual
  •          Provides an opportunity for the students to improve / brush up their small talk skills
  •          Provides an opportunity for the teacher to identify, for example, pronunciation and grammar weaknesses
  •          Allows time for late comers to arrive and get settled
  •          Is fun!
The irony of this activity is that we often feel compelled to end  the chat and get on with the lesson. ‘I’m not teaching, we must start soon!’ But by cutting the informal conversation short (which by now may be involving more members of the group and becoming increasingly animated) we move away from real communication. 

We then spend the next ten minutes setting up a completely false speaking environment ‘Ok everyone, I want you to imagine that you’re at the airport and you’ve lost your boarding card’ that can be less personalised and potentially less motivating.

I do, of course fully appreciate the need for role plays in the classroom and consider them an integral part of the English language learning process. And I know the conversation won’t always flow and that we shouldn’t force it, but I also believe that time spent ‘chatting’ is not time wasted and that we shouldn’t rush to finish it.

N.B. Students may also potentially feel that chatting is a waste of time and not ‘real learning’ so it might be worth summarising what has taken place before moving on, e.g. ‘Thanks everyone, that’s a great start to the lesson. We’ve already had the chance to practise our speaking and listening skills together and made a note of a few new words too.’

Chat’s all folks! (sorry!)



  1. After being at Anglolang last summer, I always start the lessons like this and it makes my sixth graders much more talkative.