As teachers of English as a foreign or second language, I am sure you all have your favourite warmers and fillers. I love using those on a regular basis as they break up every lesson into digestible chunks and introduce more enjoyment into the classroom. For me, a good warmer/filler is fun, inclusive of all the students and all about spontaneous language practice. Warmers and fillers can be used as a means of revising material and can be done in the form of a competition with a prize offered at the end.
The list I’ve put together is probably nothing ground-breaking. It is a very personal compilation of my top 12 fun activities and games that win my students over every time. The examples I give are suitable for students intermediate and higher, but you can treat these ideas as templates to be filled with your own content, depending on your needs.
1. Pass the parcel
This is one of my absolute favourites and loads of fun to play in class. Simply find a box with a lid and put your phone in it after setting a timer on it (vary it each time, like 3 minutes, 2 minutes, etc). Get the students to stand in a circle. The task is to come up with as many ideas as possible, for example ‘What can you do with an egg?’. The expected answers are break it, beat it, boil it, scramble it, fry it, poach it, peel it, crack it, etc. The students must come up with ideas and if they give a valid answer, they can pass the parcel. The idea is to pass the parcel as quickly as you can so it doesn’t ‘explode’ in your hands. Students get eliminated from the game if they give an answer that has already been given, give a wrong answer or if the parcel explodes on them. The winner is the last person left in the game.
Here are some questions you might want to use in this game:
- Name a noun that ends with ‘ation’.
- Name something you can find at a hospital.
- Name an animal that has horns.
- Name a highly-skilled job.
- Name an adjective used to describe a person.
- What can you do with a potato?
- What can you do with a car?
- What can you do with time?
Quick-fire questions thrown at random students. A great wake up exercise. Simply give a student a choice of two things and get them to justify their preference.
- A guinea pig or a goldfish
- Kate Middleton or Meghan Markle
- Sushi or Chinese noodles
- Easter or Christmas
- climbing or scuba-diving
- a 4WD or a convertible
- space travel or a journey to the bottom of the ocean
- a cottage or a penthouse
- Instagram or Facebook
- a blanket or a duvet
- a Japanese car or a German car
- science-fiction or biographies
- instant coffee or ground coffee
- your own garden or your own games room
- working in the office or working from home
- Amazon or Ebay
3. Name …
A great activity for a revision of vocab or simply a way of discovering how much vocabulary your students have. You can make this topic-based or random category, whatever suits your needs. Best played with a timer.
- three things commonly found in a first aid kit
- four illnesses children in your country get vaccinated against
- seven parts of a car
- five species of trees
- seven nouns with irregular plural
- three synonyms to ‘rich’
4. Noughts and crosses/tic tac toe
My all time favourite, as it is versatile and easy to carry out. I always do it as a competition in teams. Three in a row get the winning team a lot of satisfaction, a bunch of sweets and sometimes two extra points added to their progress test 😉
Simply draw the grid on the board and fill it up with whatever ideas you want:
|To depend ___ sth||To translate ___ English ____ German||To lend money ___ sb|
|To agree __ sb||To be guilty ___ sth||To complain ____ sth|
|To spend money ___ sth||To apologize ___ sth||To boast ___ sth|
5. Back to the board
Sit a student with their back facing the board and write a word, say ‘a surgeon’ on the board. Get the students to explain the word to their peer for him/her to guess or have the student ask questions like ‘Does my job involve driving?’ or ‘Is my job highly-skilled?’ or ‘Do I work in an office?’.
6. What’s the question?
Can be played as a team competition or with questions directed at individual students. Give students some statements and ask them to come up with questions to match the statements.
British people have tea with milk.
- What do British people have tea with?
- Which nationality has tea with milk?
People used to spend more time outdoors
- What did people use to do more?
- Where did people used to spend more time?
7. The gibberish auction
Another great competition that will engross your students completely. Who doesn’t get excited when there’s money to be won, well hypothetical money of course? Close team cooperation is required and there’s a great deal of new language to be learnt. Simply make some statements that your students will find challenging, make them decide whether the statements are true or false and let them bet on each statement between $10 and $100 to see who comes out of the competition with the most cash.
Lexical betting game. Decide if the following statements are true or false.
- A teetotaller is someone who loves tea.
- Barbie means barbecue in Australian English.
- Surgeons work in the theatre.
- Black pudding is a kind of dessert.
- Men in Britain wear a straightjacket to formal occasions, such as weddings.
- A wise guy and a wise man are synonyms.
- American people hang intestines on their Christmas trees.
- Clocks have hands.
- Funny bone is part of your elbow.
- A frogman is an expert on frogs.
- Pupil is part of your eye.
A variation of this game is a grammar auction where you write grammatically correct and incorrect sentences and ask the students to decide which sentences make sense.
8. Idiom charades
I love this one so much, it has me and the students in stitches every time. Simply write some idioms that you’d like your students to learn on seperate pieces of paper, get one student to come to the front of the class, give them an idiom, and ask them to act it out or draw it on the board.
Here are some idioms to get you started. Good fun guaranteed.
- to be in the dog house
- to be the bee’s knees
- to look a gift horse in the mouth
- to buy a pig in a poke
- to talk shop
- monkey business
- to cost an arm and a leg
- to pull someone’s leg
A simple game of opinions taken to another level. You start with a simple question:
‘What do you think of _______ ?’ and go around the class eliciting responses. The task is made more challenging by the fact each student must use a different way of expressing his opinion/ preferences that has not been used before. The same response used twice disqualifies the student from the game and the winner is the last person standing. It might be a good idea to pre-teach expressions such as
I am not a big fan of …
I’m quite fond of …
I’m quite keen on …
etc. prior to the activity.
Here are some ideas to ask students’ opinions about:
- board games
- Mexican food
- speed dating
- cruise ship holidays
- Elon Musk
- retail therapy
|I don’t mind …||I am not a big fan of …||I’m quite fond of …|
|I find it …||I wouldn’t be seen dead …||I dislike …|
|I absolutely loathe …||I absolutely adore …||I’m not very keen on …|
10. Would I lie to you
I described how to play this one in one of my previous posts. It can be turned into a fully-fledged lesson or can serve as a handy warmer. However you use it, you and your students are bound to enjoy it.
Follow this link to learn how to play it.
11. Pronunciation master
I am a strong advocate of deliberate pronunciation practice in class, even one tiny exercise at a time. Simply divide the class up into two teams, chuck some pronunciation-wise tricky words into a hat, and let the competition begin. I also described the game in detail in one of my previous posts with a readymade list of tricky words included.
Check it out here.
12. Spelling bee
You can do it in two ways. Either dictate the words and test your students’ ability to spell them or spell out the words and test your students ability to write the words down.
Here’s a ready made list of commonly misspelt words you might want to use with your higher level students: