Blog,  Teacher Tips

3 warm-up activities to remotely engage and energize students

Despite the freedom and convenience of teaching and learning from home, ongoing virtual interactions can be extremely taxing on the brain. Digital fatigue – the pressure of being constantly plugged into virtual interactions, is a very real consequence of the current unprecedented (but necessary) push toward online instruction. To encourage sustained attention and interaction, teachers, perhaps now more than ever, need to find creative ways to generate interest and energize learners, particularly when introducing new content.

These three warm-up activities are fun, activate schema, and generate exploratory discussion in a meaningful way. They are also guaranteed to reload student interest and energy.    


Picture Reveal

Picture Reveal is an enjoyable, suspenseful, warm-up activity that capitalizes on the value of using images to promote content and grab attention. It also encourages number recognition, visual processing, and guessing strategies – all of which make for an effective warm-up activity.

Using the picture reveal tool at classtools.net/reveal/ teachers upload a picture related to the content of their lesson and the puzzle generator converts the image into numbered puzzle pieces. Students or teams take it in turns to choose a number, have a piece of the puzzle revealed, and guess what the hidden picture is. The picture then becomes a great springboard for discussion on the topic at hand.


Whose …… is it?

Before class, ask students to forward a photo of a particular item from their home, such as a photo of a favorite toy or treasure. Create a collage of the items and ask students to guess who the items belong to. For larger groups, choose one of the photos and ask, ‘Whose … is it?’. The owner of the photo then shares more about the item with the class.

This activity provides a wonderful opportunity for students to bring their home lives into the classroom and share information that they perhaps wouldn’t ordinarily know about each other. Other items of focus could include a family member, a pet, or a decorative item from their home. Asking students to take a photo of what they believe to be the most important invention in their home is a great precursor to discussing inventions of the 21st Century.


Scavenger Hunt

In a traditional classroom setting, students frequently move around the room changing groups and participating in interactive activities such as back to back/ face to face, carousel brainstorm, and gallery walk. Numerous studies show that movement can significantly increase the flow of blood and oxygen and positively influence cognitive functioning and wellbeing leading to improved academic performance. Although somewhat more of a challenge at home, students can also be encouraged to move out or their seats and the activity Scavenger Hunt serves this purpose well. Similar to the previous activity (Whose … is it?), students have the opportunity to bring their homes into the classroom.

For this activity, the teacher calls out an item for students to find and bring back to the computer (within a certain time limit). For younger students, for example, teachers could ask learners to find an item in the house that starts with a particular letter of the alphabet. For older students, teachers could ask learners to bring an item made of a particular material or chemical compound. In the case of language teaching and practicing superlatives, for example, students could be asked to bring the oldest, ugliest, cheapest or softest item they can find. Call on students to present what they found to the class.


Remember, the purpose of an effective warm-up activity is to jump-start students into learning by stimulating their minds and/or their bodies. The Internet is full of ideas on how to do this. Although many are not quite suitable for online teaching, and often involve interaction with peers, many can be creatively adapted for the home context. Bringing in family members to substitute for classmates, for example, puts an interesting spin on traditional warm-up activities! Be sure to share how you have adapted warm-up activities for online instruction with your teaching community.


👋 Learn more

At Kami we see it as our duty to support schools, teachers, and students during this tough shutdown period, and beyond. To learn more about how Kami could help you with remote learning check out our resources here. 

Try Kami for Remote Learning

Latest posts by Dawn Booth, PhD (see all)
Share this:

Dr. Dawn Booth is an author, instructional designer, teacher trainer and instructor in the field of second language education. She is also co-founder of The English Doctors and author of the book: The Sociocultural Activity of High Stakes Standardized Language Testing. With over 18 years of teaching experience, she has taught all ages from elementary school to university across five countries and three continents.