Keeping your high school learners’ attention can feel like a challenge at times. Especially if you’re teaching during the warmer months and your class happens to be straight after lunchtime!
If you haven’t already, check out our blog on middle-school warm-up activities for a good place to start. If you’re after something a little more advanced, or just looking to add some tools to your teaching resources, this blog has all the tips and tricks you need to make the first minutes of your class a blast for your high school students. If this is the first time you’re meeting your class, check out our blog about introducing yourself and making a good first impression.
Whether you teach English, ESL, social studies, language arts, or physical education, there are always benefits to introducing a warm-up activity to your lesson plans. You’ll quickly discover that starting a class in one of these fun ways won’t only get your learners excited about a new topic, but it’ll get you in the mood too!
These are aimed at the more social aspect of the classroom. Your students will learn better if they feel comfortable working together. Most of these are English language focused but will work as a fun way to start any class.
- Chain Story: Learners collaborate to write a story about the first day of school on a single piece of paper. However, as they pass the paper to the next student, fold it so that only the most recent sentence is visible. Then, read the entire story to the class. It’s usually a good piece of amusing nonsense!
- “I have spoken”: This works well as a back-to-school activity after a holiday or long weekend. In a large circle, students get the chance to say as much (or as little) as they want about their vacation (or any topic of their choosing) in 20 seconds. At the end of their time, they say, “I have spoken,” and everyone replies, “Ho!” Then the turn passes to the next student in the circle.
- “I’m going to bring”: Start by saying, “I’m going for a picnic (or on vacation, or to the beach), and I’m going to bring,” and then name an appropriate item that starts with the letter “A.” The next student in the circle says, “I’m going for a picnic and I’m going to bring,” and then they repeat your item and then add an item that starts with B. Continue around the circle, adding an item that starts with the next letter of the alphabet each time. This can work especially well if you’re creative with where you’re “going.”
- Sign of the day: Fun fact, The United States does not in fact have an official language! But, after English and Spanish, American Sign Language is among the most widespread. Just like Spanish, the benefits of knowing a few simple words and phrases in ASL can be huge for social and professional development. It can also be a lot of fun for your students to have another means of communication with other learners. There’s a great Youtube channel here, that can get you and your class started on learning new signs!
High School English
English class in high school is where learners start to learn the deeper mechanics of English language and literature. Your warm-ups can reflect this new depth by asking students to quickly create, analyze or summarize aspects from previous lessons. These formats can be easily tweaked for other school subjects, not just English classes!
- Flash Fiction: Not stories about the world’s fastest superhero. Flash fiction is all about writing very short stories as quickly as possible! Give your students a prompt from a previous lesson and tell them they have one minute to write a response to it. Be sure to establish that short stories require a beginning, middle, and end, even if they’re very small!
- Character Motivations: Write a famous character on the whiteboard. It could be an obscure character from a previous lesson, or someone more generic. Have your students write bullet points on a piece of paper about what motivates them.
ESL warm-up activities
Learning English as a second language can be really tough. There’s a good chance that at least one of your learners will speak English as a second language. Games like these can be a great way to build a strong foundation that can improve their confidence before beginning a new topic. One of the best ways to maximize your native English speakers’ interest is to introduce new topics in fun ways. Try some of these ESL games and see for yourself!
- Fun, Fantastic Friends: This is a great team-building ESL warm-up activity that can be played in pairs or small groups. Divide your learners up into pairs or small groups. If you’re teaching online, this works fine as an individual activity. Assign each group or person a letter (Maybe avoid difficult letters such as X or Q!). They now have to find two adjectives and a noun with that starting letter to describe themselves. When everybody is ready, each group introduces themselves in front of the class. Students usually come up with funny, original ideas that make everybody laugh. You will hear things like, “We are amazing, active animals” and, “We are cool, cheerful classmates.”
- Sentence Scramble: For native English speakers, incorrect syntax can be easy to find, but tricky to explain. For this fun activity, you can divide the students into small groups. Come up with a few sentences before class, and write the sentence’s words on your whiteboard in random order. The first group or individual student to unscramble the words and read the sentence aloud correctly wins that round.When creating sentences, you can use motivating mottos, the target subject of the day, or review a grammar point from a previous lesson. Even though it might sound very easy, you can choose quite complicated phrases, such as quotes, scientific principles, or even a Shakespearean verse or two!
These games are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to great warm-up activities. You and your students can work together to see what works best for your learning environment. These all work well either in person or, with just some minor adjustments, in a blended environment. Hopefully, these activities provide you and your class with some fun ways to start each class!