13 ESL Warm Up Activities For More Engaging Lessons


ESL warm up activities are a great way to start any English class. It is a win-win for both teachers and students.

Teachers can tune themselves in for the upcoming class and buy themselves some time. Students, especially younger ones, can have fun, get to know each other, and learn something new at the same time. Just like athletes need to warm up their muscles before their activities, students need to “warm up” their brains. The warm up activities should take about 5 minutes, and you can can be taught either by classroom teachers or online ESL teachers.

In this article we have gathered some engaging, informative, and fun warm up games for ESL students as well as the warm up exercises for kids learning languages.

ESL Warm Up Activities

A-Z Game

warm up games

Working in teams, students should come up with words that are related to a certain topic and start with each letter of the alphabet, from A to Z. For example, for the “food” topic the words would be “apple“, “butter“, “cheese“, and so on. The winning team of this ESL warmup should complete the entire alphabet first. This can also be done by one student in a tutoring session.

Organize Yourselves

During this group warm up activity, you should tell your students to arrange themselves according to a given criteria, such as age, name, street where they live, and so on. Students should then have to tell you why they organized this way, using proper grammar.

Make The Longest Words

Write down a word of minimum five letters and tell your students to make up words that start with each letter of this word. It is desirable that the word has no repeating letters. The winner or the winning team should make up the longest word. For example: TABLE – Terrified, Ambiguous, Blossom, Landscape, Empty. The students can also do the same with the letters of their names. It help with ESL pronunciation lessons.

Check out these fun pronunciation games and exercises for your ESL students.


Mix up the letters and/or words in a sentence and encourage your students to find the right order and decipher the sentence.


Give the students any topic and suggest that they write down as many true facts as they know about this topic. For example, they can write down the facts about dogs.

Fitting In

Show your students a bowl, a flower pot, a basket or any similar item, and suggest that they name the items that would fit into this bowl/pot/basket.

Odd One Out

Name or write down a range of concepts or items and tell your students to find one concept or item that does not fit in. The odd concepts and items should be somewhat related to other concepts and items in the range, but still have some slight differences, so they should be not that easy to guess. For example, “table, chair, bed, fridge, sink” – bed is odd because in most cases you cannot find a bed in the kitchen. However, some students could also name fridge or sink, and it makes this task a bit complicated. You can also encourage the students to make up their own range of concepts or items with odd ones.


In this vocabulary warm up exercise, you should give the students one word and suggest that they think of idioms that contain this word. For example, “blue” – “out of the blue“, “feel blue“, etc. They can also make up the sentences with those idioms.


Write down different questions on pieces of paper, put them in a basket, and turn on some music. Ask the students to sit in a circle and hand this basket over to each other until you stop the music. The person who is holding the basket at that moment should take a piece of paper out of the basket and answer the question.

What can you tell about cookies?

Give out cookies or other sweets to everyone, and tell the class to describe the sweets – their color, shape, etc. – and analyze their quality, such as taste, crispiness, etc. They can also tell a story about those sweets.


The leader thinks of a category, such as “fruit”. In a circle, everyone should name a fruit within a limited time period – the leader usually counts to five. If someone takes too long to give an answer or gives an incorrect answer, then that person is out and a new category begins. In the end, only one person remains.

Word chain

The students toss a ball to each other and name the words that start with the last letter of the previous word, forming the chain. For example, “ball“ – “lamp“ – “pie“, and so on.

Empty Comics

Find a comic strip and wipe out the words from the bubbles. The students should guess what the comic characters are saying.

We hope that this list of ESL warm up activities will help you plan more effective lessons for your students and keep them engaged throughout the entire lesson, whether you’re an teach online in the classroom. If you’re looking for more, check out our guides to fun ESL games and activitiesspeaking activities and comprehensible input strategies and activities.

Earn up to $22 an Hour Teaching English from Home



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here