We've all had them…days when we're planned out, on top of things, and ready to take on the world, and days when we're flying into the school parking lot just before the bell rings with dryer sheets hanging out of our clothes, coffee spilling everywhere, and no idea what the heck we're teaching in ten minutes. Then in saunter the kids and our day begins. Depending on the day, the weather, the material to cover, and your mood, you can vary your warm up activities to suit the situation. Here are some ideas for your classroom warm ups.
Before we get started though, I have to let you know that this blog post does include affiliate links. I am an Amazon Associate, and as such, I earn from qualifying purchases.
1. Read Silently
When you need a quiet start to the day, some semblance of peace and serenity, the silence to take some deep breaths, try silent reading. Give the kids a time limit and have them sit down with a great book to read while you take attendance, handle parent notes, check in homework, and maybe read a few pages yourself.
2. Journal or Creative Writing
For a similar experience but one which generates student work and data, have your students engage in creative writing or journal entries. Give your students a creative writing prompt, a character education or ethics question, or a journal prompt and then let them write. You can also allow your students to free write as well. I like to take photographs out of magazines and laminate them on construction paper. Then I have my students randomly take a page and create a story around the picture they chose. These random pictures always presented the best stories. Journal and creative writing can be collected and evaluated as a data point, but it can also just be assigned as practice.
3. Meditate and Mindfulness
Another quiet opportunity is time for meditation and mindfulness. I taught my 6th graders how to use the Headspace app to meditate and use mindfulness to calm down and focus. You can read about that experience here, but basically getting my kids to stop, think, and center themselves basically saved my sanity one year.
4. Logic Puzzles & Brain Teasers
A fourth warm up activity for your class for the day or the class period is to give them a brain teaser or logic puzzle. These fun mental challenges can get the synapses firing and learning juices flowing so kids are hyped and ready to learn. I like to grab books like these to get my logic puzzles and brain teasers.
5. Review Problems
Similar to logic puzzles is the concept of giving your students review problems from previous lessons. I usually give my students 5 problems of varying difficulty and type. The first one or two might be some rote memorization, then I may ask an opinion question, and then I'm diving deeper into the analyzing and connecting skills. Or for those in a classroom where all the subjects are taught, I would sometimes ask up to 10 questions – 3 of ELA, 3 of math, 4 of social studies/science.
6. Icebreaker Questions
Warm up activities would not be complete without including icebreaker questions. You might just use these at the beginning of the term, but you can use them any time you want something a little fun and different. Depending on the age and level of your students you may have questions like …
What is your favorite animal at the zoo?
If you could have any super power, what would it be?
Would you rather eat a jalapeno pepper or gulp down a Slurpee/Icee?
What was your first concert?
My daughter had a class where they had ice breaker questions all semester long, and the kids were responsible for coming up with the questions. They had a set schedule, so students knew which day they were assigned to, and they led the discussion. This allowed the teacher to totally handle her own responsibilities without worrying about what the kids were up to. I thought it was brilliant!
7. Mental Health Check-In
Another type of question to ask in the morning is a mental health check-in. I know some people put a question on the board and have students answer with folded sticky notes, but I prefer something more private, like this digital form that you can receive via this sign up. Students can answer quietly at their desks and no one else can see. Then teachers can go through them discreetly and flag kids that they need to check in with or send on to the office.
8. Clean Out Desks/Lockers/Backpacks
An eighth warm up option is to have students clean out their storage area, whether it be a desk, backpack, or locker. I like to do this about once a month to help students stay organized. While you're organizing for the period or taking attendance and going through notes, have them look for lost assignments and forgotten homework, throw away old food, and gather all those runaway pencils. They'll feel more prepared and so will you.
9. Hot Seats are More than just a Warm Up Activity
Once you and your students have gotten to know each other fairly well, try starting a Hot Seat. I incorporate Hot Seats as part of my positive classroom culture that you can read about here. With my hot seats, I would place a student on a stool at the front of the room, and give all the rest of the students a colored strip of paper. Their job was to write a compliment, kind fact, or something else nice about the kid on the hot seat. I collected these (sometimes laminated them) and hole punched them and put them on a ring, giving them out at the end of the year. Kids left on a high note and I saved myself money on end of year gifts.
10. Free Time
When all else fails, give the kids free time. I'm not saying this is okay for every day, but occasionally giving the kids 5-10 minutes to talk with a friend, decompress, and just be themselves isn't going to hurt anything, and you'll feel more prepared and ready for your day.
Regardless of what method you choose, keeping kids learning, laughing, and loving school is the important thing, and when you're happier and enjoying yourself, the kids can sense it, and they'll enjoy school more too. So take care of yourself, find what works for you, and have a great day building the future.
Let me know your favorite warm up activity in the comments below. I can't wait to hear what you do.
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