8 ideas to engage your EFL class

8 ideas to engage your EFL class

by | Feb 14, 2020 | Blog

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We have recently been having enormous fun training 3 churches full of budding new ESOL teachers.

One of the things we have been doing is helping them answer that age-old question:

How do I get my students warmed up and ready for English class in an interesting and engaging way?

In other words, what are a good series of interesting and interactive warmer activities that are culturally sensitive for mixed nationality groups?

(Hint: for those that don’t know, an engagement activity, or “warmer” is a short activity designed to motivate and ‘engage’ your English learners. It’s purpose is to help them think in English before the main body of your lesson gets underway.  )

We’ve outlined some of the warmers our churches tried out below. Choose your favourite. Or add your ideas below the line…

1. Introduce your partner

Great for  a first lesson. Put some simple prompts on the board, such as:  name, why here and favourite food. Get your students into pairs to discuss. After a few minutes, ask 1 of each pair to stand up and introduce their partner.  Good for breaking the ice and encouraging confidence in speaking English aloud in class.  Steer clear of sensitive topics and try to pair female with female, male with male if this is a first lesson and you have a mixed gender group.

2. Who am I?

Write the name of a well-known person on a piece of paper and then put it on each student, but not so as they can see (you could dangle it from their neck on their back). Ask students to move around the room and ask each other questions, but only ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions, such as ‘Am I male? Am I as singer?’ to find out who the ‘are’. This is also a good practice of the present tense. You can see Louisa modelling this in the video below.

3. Memory chain:

If your students have more than a basic level of English, you could do something a little more advanced. This idea is a great way of practising the past tense.

You begin by saying:

‘I went to the market and I bought a …..’,

each person says this aloud, adding their item to the list of the items stated previously. The chain gets longer and longer. It could be used to revise language on items bought in a supermarket, for example. Super practical for ESOL learners.

4. Change places if…

Everyone sits on chairs in a circle. 1 person stands in the centre and says ‘change places if you are wearing  xxx.’ The people to whom this applies have to change seats, but the person in the middle also tries to sit down. This means the last  to get to a seat will be left without a seat, in the middle, standing…and the game continues. Super for the present continuous.  Be careful if physical interaction is a no-no; you can’t help bumping into each other as you scramble for seats.

5. What’s changed?

Have some students leave the room. With your class, allow each student to make 1 change to the classroom environment, possibly have students change seats, or write a word on the board or open a window (nothing too obscure.)  When the students return, see how many changes they can see. If they use the structure: she has written on the board, this is great for the present perfect.


Other classic activities you already know  – ideal for TESOL 

7. Guess my word: bring pictures or use flashcards of everyday items. In pairs, 1 student has to describe the picture without using the word for the other to guess.

8. Tongue twisters: Write on the board for students to practise together and in pairs. Ask students to share similar in their language and translate. Lots of fun.

There is more on crafting warmers into your lessons in our accredited online TESOL courses


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