Warming Up Online Classes

Let's dive into teaching online! I teach with DaDa on a unique platform for online classes. I have one-to-one classes with students aged 4-13 for 30 minutes each. My students are from China and have a varying level of English. So, each 30 minute block is totally different and always interesting!

Although the courseware is provided by DaDa, it is important to do warm ups with students. This gets their emerging bilingual brains into gear. Warms up also help to set the tone of the class, gather their attention, and make the first five or so minutes super engaging. After that, the courseware and ESL class can begin!

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Obviously, with online classes, the level of interaction varies. After all, you aren't in a room with a student - you're on their screen and you don't exist below shoulder level. Nonetheless, there are still many effective ways to engage students in warm up exercises.


Here are some of my favourite warm ups I've been using with my regular students. Depending on their level and age, I adapt the warm up exercise. Each activity can be extended easily. Oh, and these exercises can also be adapted to in-person teaching and tutoring!


So, let's take a look! I hope you find some inspiration for your next warm up in class!



Fruity Fun

I love fruits in ESL lessons for so many reasons. They are a fun warm up. I either use my tiny fruits to talk about colours with students.

Another one I have are these cards. On one side is ONE apple, then you turn it over and there are TWO apples. I have a mix of numbers for the plurals (like 2 bananas, four oranges, three strawberries) etc. I try not to hold them up in number order otherwise the students just say the sequence instead of counting. The plurals are useful to point out the S on the end!


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Letter Blends

There are so many letter blends that are hard to wrap the tongue around (literally!) These blend flashcards are great as a warm up.


I ask the student if they know what is in the picture. Then we look at the 3 blend options available. Since online students can't point to one, they say "the first!" etc. I've written more about the importance of letter blends here.


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Farm Animal Frenzy

Gotta love some cute animals! I enjoy using these farm animals for a fun warm up. They are perfect for younger students to grab their attention the moment you appear on screen.

I use these for vocabulary words, animal sounds, and sometimes we discuss what colour the animal is.


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Powerful Prepositions

Pesky prepositions are hard to avoid! I've managed to turn them into a fun warm up using my good little doggo. These cards are very handy in identifying prepositions and sentence building.

I simply ask the student "where is the dog?" and they answer using the preposition and picture available. Then, I take them on an adventure with dog all around the preposition world! Here's some more info prepositions and ways to use them in lessons.


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Wordy Words

I'm sure this activity has another, better name, but we call it Wordy Words! It is so simple and fun. I think it's best for students aged 8 (high level) to 13. The 11/12 years old really get into it!

So, start with a word. here is the word GREEN. Ends in the letter N. What starts with N? NICE. Ends in E. What starts with E? And so on... Simple, effective, and fun! I like to play until we fill up the whole white board.


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Magic E Madness

Oh, that Magic E! It's a true delight of teaching English. This exercises focuses mostly on how words change in sound when you add the E.

Start with a list of Magic E words, without the E. Get the student to read them out. Then, one by one, add the E (I have this handy-dandy up-cycled Magic E wand) and get the student to say the word again. Make sure they listen to how the first vowel sound changes once that sneaky E is there.


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Number Names

We do a lot of counting throughout classes and numbers are valuable in English. Something I noticed with some of the DaDa courseware is that the number often appears in written form, as well as numeric form.

For this warm up, I simply hold up a number written out. I get the student to say the word, and then write the number on the screen. It is really easy and simple, but important vocabulary and word awareness for them.


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Missing Vowel Mystery

This exercise helps to show the importance of vowels. I start with holding up the 5 vowels and getting the student to write them on the screen. Then, I'll hold up a word with the middle letter missing. They are all CVC words.

The student chooses a vowel for each word, then we cross that vowel off the screen. Make sure you hold up a word suitable for the remaining vowels as you go through! Here are other ideas on missing vowels.


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Spelling Sounds

One of the most effective warm ups is spelling. These spelling cards (mostly all CVC words) are a great starting point, especially for the younger students.

I hold up a card and ask them what they see. Sometimes they recognise it by sight and say the word first, then we spell out the letters. Other times, they won't know the word. So we look at the letters and say both the letter NAME and SOUND it makes (both are important!). Then we figure out the word.

There you go! I hope you've found some inspiration for your classes. One final thing...

I made all these nifty resources on recycled materials. Leftover cardboard, an empty marker, empty toilet paper rolls - they all became teaching materials!

Keep it eco, keep educational!