ESL warm ups to activate knowledge and energise the class

A good warm-up is an essential part of an ESL class. It can help break the ice, activate language learning mode, reactivate previous gains, and introduce the topic of the day. If you get the warm-up right, the rest of the class will take care of itself.

Teaching Online

For warmer and filler activities suitable for an online teaching enviroment check out the Teaching Online and Teaching with Technology pages too.

The big list of fun, no-preparation warm-up activities

No preparation needed with these fun ESL warm-ups which help to get the class off to a smooth start.

10 dictation activities

Here are ten ideas to breathe new life into dictation activities.

Collaborative crosswords

A pairwork speaking activity to present and practise new vocabulary and improve learner fluency.

Scatter Sheets: a fun way to improve vocabulary and fluency

A simple but effective activity to increase students’ vocabulary and speaking confidence. Also available as a photocopiable book. See also the online scatter sheet maker.

A to Z race

A fun and lively game which pitches teams against each other to fill the board with vocabulary.

Guess the sound

These mystery sound quizzes are a fun way to introduce a topic. Challenge your students to identify a series of thematically related sounds. Including household sounds, animal sounds, sounds of summer, street sounds and the scary sounds of Halloween.


Crosswords are a handy way to review vocabulary or introduce a theme. Here’s a quick guide to creating them easily.

Pass the bomb

My classes’ favourite ESL warm up. The bomb never fails to inject life and excitement into the most tired and sluggish classrooms.