Warmers and Fillers

Every teacher knows the value and purpose of supplementary material in the classroom. Although, teachers usually prepare supplementary material to reinforce, enliven and develop the previously taught material, these can also be used as "warmers and fillers". So how do we use them and what purpose do they have?

If you are a slave to the body beautiful cult, then you probably are aware that you don't go to the gym and jump onto the nearest machine and feel the burn. Imagine what damage this would do to those finely toned muscles! Now think of your students. They come into your English lesson after a hectic day at college or work where they have most likely only been using their first language. The last thing they need is a bashing of grammar and new target language. Therefore, try starting off with a warmer.

A warmer, just as the name suggests - a warm up, can take the form of a simple game, which doesn't have to be related to the topic of the day. A warmer will also help you out with students who are unavoidably detained at the office and drift in 7 minutes after the start. At such times, doing a warmer first will prevent you from having to reiterating the target language for the x-amount of time.

Fillers are of a similar ilk, but serve rather a different purpose. Think about them like a rest from the intensive process of learning grammar, phrasal verbs and other such things. Fillers allow your students to relax and even be "a bit daft" for while. Try to see it as a breathing space. They also serve another purpose. Every teacher, if they are being honest, will admit to having had at least once that sinking moment in a lesson when they've realized that their materials have dried up. And nothing looks more unprofessional than making uncomfortable small talk (imagine having a beginners class) or dashing out to cob together some copies, bearing in mind that some schools won't have a photocopier. Or, if you prepared a fantastic lesson but feel that the presentation, practice and production of the present perfect is wearing thin, then a few fun activities are probably what your lesson needs, especially if there's a few spare moments left. Or, if you feel that at this point new material will only confuse the students and you've reviewed, reviewed and reviewed until your students are blue in the face . . . . Then read ahead. This compendium is for you.

This is a selection of the creme de la creme of warmers and fillers compiled by hard working teachers* who wish to share what they do during those sticky moments of silence and despair in a lesson and the topic of "where to go for a walk in Moscow?" has been somewhat exhausted. These are designed for the situations above, however they are NOT designed for the following:

  1. The difference between present perfect and past simple looks a bit too hard for me to explain and my class won't get it anyway, so if I do a long activity and give them the grammar for homework then maybe they won't notice.
  2. I can't be bothered thinking of an interesting way to practice phrasal verbs, so we'll play a game instead. They'll have fun, and it will save me a bit of preparation time.
  3. It's Friday afternoon. My mind's really on where I'm going for a beer tonight. The same as my class. I'm not in the mood for preparing, they're not in the mood for learning . . . Oh well, lets fill it up with some "busy work". They're using English, aren't they?
  4. Lots more… (hopefully you won't be amongst those inventing them)

Think of your warmers and fillers when you are preparing your lesson and how they can be used to the best advantage for your students, you and your lesson. Read through and become familiar with the activities so that if you unexpectedly run out of material, you'll be able to come up with something on the spot and be able to maintain a modicum of professionalism.

For your convenience, the activities have been divided into four basic levels of language proficiency: beginner, elementary, pre-intermediate and upper-intermediate. Please note that each activity is time limited i.e., they are not expected to last forever. That said, the timings are approximate. Finally, as you will soon note, the amount of resources needed to perform these activities is minimal as are the instructions so as not to waste your time.

Name of the game
 Approximate time
Level 1+Complete the Word5-7

Divide the class into two teams. One ST from each team comes forward and is given a piece of chalk. The 2 STs must face the class while you write an incomplete word on the board (twice, one for each team)

h__ __s __        h__ __s__ (answer - horse)

The 2 STs can then look at the word. The first one to run up and complete the word correctly scores 1 point for his team. Continue with other words. You can of course limit them to certain grammatical or lexical areas.

*This compilation is taken from many different sources and authors.

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