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Lesson Ideas

Warm-up Activities

Interesting numbers Words in the spotlight
Is that a fact? The Change Game
What's That?! Escaping Mind Traps

The pages linked above contain suggested short activities for use at the start of class periods. They are designed to get students' attention, to help them put aside distracting thoughts, and to get them ready to focus individually and as groups on whatever activities follow.  You might think of them as the academic equivalents of loud noises or bursts of light.  Much like those physical phenomena, when presented properly they will cause people to stop whatever they are doing or thinking and refocus their attention. 

While you may not be able to make them topical lead-ins for your daily lessons, I encourage you to try them anyway.  The 5 or 10 minutes per day you'll spend should pay off in dramatic results; at least they did for me. Once I began regular use of warm-ups like these, I noticed that everybody, and I mean everybody, began paying close attention to what was going on.  A sense of excitement filled the room as more and more students were drawn into the web, firing questions and listening to answers as they sought solutions to the puzzles and questions I'd posed.  I found myself forced to prepare similar activities each day.  If I missed a day, students would whine and groan and beg for 2 the next day.  Unsolicited, they even began to bring in puzzles and problems they'd found on their own. 

I even noticed significant changes during my "regular" lessons.  As with the warm-ups, students paid closer attention, asked better questions, and seemed a bit more excited than before.  Most astonishing to me however, was the fact that my discipline problems almost disappeared.  I can only surmise that most resulted from boredom; and that formerly bored students, turned on by the warm-ups, no longer found need to seek excitement in ways I found troublesome.

If you choose, you can award points or grades as extra incentives for students who are especially responsive to them.  However, there can be a downside to doing this.   Most of the activities are designed to encourage students to cooperate in the search for answers.  Encouraging competition for grades might discourage their inclination to cooperate, thereby limiting the activities' effectiveness.  However you know your students best, so you make the call.


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original web posting: Tuesday, December 1, 1998
last modified: Tuesday, February 04, 2003