TEFL Tip Tuesday: Top Ten Warmers and Coolers That Can Be Adapted To Any Topic.

Anyone who has studied TEFL will know how important warmers and coolers are; warmers get your students excited and energised for class and coolers keep them coming back for more! There’s no doubt that warmers and coolers are the bread that keep your English Lesson sandwich from falling apart but sometimes it can be hard to think of interesting activities that relate to the topic of the lesson. This TEFL tip focuses on fun and engaging activities that can be adapted to any lesson topic.

Level 1. Myanmar

Warmers –  Use warmers to introduce a new topic or to review the previous topic.

Coolers – Use coolers to review the lesson and leave students excited for the next class.

These are the activities I have found most effective in my classroom. There are an endless stream of games that could be used as warmers and coolers but these are the ones I have found to be the most adaptable.


  1. Pictionary

I have written about the power of Pictionary a couple of times before but there is a reason for that! This game can be used with any set of vocabulary words and with any age group. It is the most adaptable game there is!


Level 1 playing Pictionary. Myanmar
  1. Board Race

I have used this game with students as young as five all the way to my middle school students in China and it always inspires a bit of healthy competition. There are a few different ways you can play it which is why it is so easy to adapt to different age groups. One way is to split the class into teams and give them a topic, when you say go the first person in each team runs to the board and writes a word on the board related to that topic, they then run back to the next member of their team and that person must run up to the board and write a new word. The first team to have every member write a word on the board is the winner. Another way to play is to again split the class into teams and put a minute on the clock, like the first version of this game the first person in each team runs to the board and writes a word on the board. This version of the game does not require a topic but instead the next student to the board must use the last letter of the previous word to begin their next word. The team with the most words at the end of the time is the winner, no duplicate words allowed.


  1. Catch and Spell/Say

This game is exactly what it sound like. The teacher should pick a student and throw something, a soft ball or a scrunched up piece of paper, for that student to catch. When they catch it the teacher should give them a word to spell (for younger learners with low proficiency show a flashcard and ask them to say the word instead of spell it) if they spell/say it correctly they then get to throw the ball to the next person. This game is a great way to review vocabulary words and requires almost no prep so it is a great cooler or filler activity.


  1. Stand Up, Sit Down

This is a great activity for critical thinking and it can be used with any young learner class. The teacher calls out statements and if they are true for the students/they agree with it they should stand up, if they are not true/the student disagrees with it then the students must sit down. The phrases can be as simple or as complex as you need for the proficiency level of your class and it works for any topic from food to transportation. It is super simple to follow and you won’t need any materials to play it!


“Meeeeee”. China
  1. Teacher Says

Another game that requires no materials or prep, Teacher Says works best for younger students between the ages of four to eight. It follows the same rules as Simon Says and is a great way to warm up your class and get them excited for the lesson.


  1. Board Slap

All you will need for this game is flash cards and some tape/sticky tac. Stick all of the vocabulary flashcards to the board or empty wall and split the class into teams. The teacher should shout a vocabulary word and one student from each team should race to the board and slap the corresponding flashcard.


  1. Clapping Chain

This is a really simple memory game that can be used to review a topic or to find out how much a class already knows about a topic. The teacher should start by saying a vocabulary word and clapping once, the teacher should then choose a student to “throw” the chain to. That student should say the teachers word, clap once, say another word from the same topic and clap twice. They should then pass it round the room until someone forgets a word or can’t think of a new one to add to the chain.


Grade 1. China
  1. What’s Missing?

For this game you should stick all of the flashcards on the board and ask the students to look at them for one minute. Then the students should close their eyes while you remove one or more of the flashcards. The students should then tell you what is missing from the board. To make the game more difficult you could mix up the order of the flashcards as well as taking one or two away. For higher proficiency students try using the vocabulary words instead of picture flashcards.


  1. Whisper

This is a little bit of a twist on the classic game Broken Telephone to make it a bit more competitive. Split the class into teams and line them up facing the board. One student from the back of each team comes to the teacher and listen to a word or sentence. They should then race back to their teams and whisper that word or sentence to the next student. The whisper should travel down the chain until it gets to the student in front of the board. The student in front of the board should then write the word or sentence on the board. The team who is closest to the original whisper is the winner.


  1. Corners

A classic childhood party game that is great fun in the classroom. I tend to use this as a cooler more than a warmer as it gets the students very excited. You can play this two ways. One, like the classic party game where music is played and when it stops the students decide what corner (each corner should have a flashcard with one of the topic’s vocabulary words) to go to while the teacher is not looking, the teacher then shouts a vocabulary word and any students in that corner are now out. Or two, when the music stops the teacher shouts out a vocabulary word and the students run to it, the first student there gets a point.


There are so many fun games out there but making them work for different topics isn’t always easy, I hope this post was helpful to anyone struggling to think of activities to use in their classroom. If you have games that can be adapted to any lesson topic then please leave them as a comment below!


For more TEFL tips check out one of these posts: 


4 Replies to “TEFL Tip Tuesday: Top Ten Warmers and Coolers That Can Be Adapted To Any Topic.”

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