The Place of Warm up in the English Lesson



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The Role of Warming Up Activities in Adolescent Students' Involvement during the English Class*


In this article we want to share the experience we had when we applied warming up activities to seven graders at Porfirio Barba Jacob, a public school in Bogotá, during 2004. Our main objective was to get students' attention at the beginning of the class by means of enjoyable and short activities as well as to observe how possible it was to engage them in the steps that followed. We sought to explore students' involvement in the English class while we tried to motivate them through appropriate warm ups. We used journals, students' surveys and field notes to collect data. The analysis of information collected showed us that the use of warm up activities increases students' attention and helps us link the processes of the class.

Key words: Warming up activities, students' attention, students' participation





We decided to carry out this project when we formed part of the Red Profile PFPD (Professional Development Program), at the National University in 2004. This work was implemented at the Porfirio Barba Jacob School, a public school located in "La Palestina" neighborhood of Bosa, on the west side of Bogotá , with seventh graders who were usually bored or not interested in the English class and, if so, they did not engage enough in class work.

As we looked for alternatives to support our pupils' learning and motivation, we concluded that the use of warm up activities is a topic commonly mentioned in methodologies suggested for English classes. However, it has not been given enough importance as compared to other stages or phases of classes such as practice, students' production or presentations, which mainly involve the warm up activity, an activity to identify the knowledge students have about the topic, and the introduction of new vocabulary. So, we decided to plan some lessons with warming up activities and to investigate our students' learning of the foreign language.

Considering the aspects mentioned above, our main question was as follows: What is the role of warming up activities in students' involvement in the English class? The execution of this project took six months. During this process, we analyzed and included the steps and principles of the communicative approach in our work with warming up activities, selected useful and interesting warm up activities, implemented them by means of the careful design of lesson plans that allowed us to involve students in the classes according to the topic we were working with, and, finally, analyzed and evaluated the results.

The institutional project considers three axes: cognitive development, self-action and education in values. The English curriculum led to a special organization of students by levels per grade. This organization by levels, according to students' performance, established basic, intermediate and advanced levels. We worked with intermediate and advanced groups of 7th grade with an average of 30 students each and took turns with the implementation stage. Thus, we acted as teachers and observers in each other's class. Each class was designed by both of us, taking special care of the type of warm up and the close connection with the language focus.

In the next sections you will find the theoretical bases that support our study, including the research design we implemented, the corresponding data collection instruments and analysis and, finally, the conclusions and pedagogical implications that our study yielded.

Literature Review

Elements such as the role of motivation, the stages of classes in EFL as well as aspects of a warm up activity were taken into consideration in the development of our project. They are considered in the following paragraphs.

Motivation and Warm up Activities

First of all, it is necessary to consider the relation between motivation and warm up activities for it is the desired goal to enrich the learning of the subject matter, in our case, language learning.

Warming up activities can foster motivation and this is, in turn, an essential component when planning warming up activities. According to Dornyei (2001), teachers need to try and actively generate positive students' attitudes toward learning. He also claims that the key issue in generating interest is to widen the student's appetite; that is, to arouse the students' curiosity and attention and to create an attractive image for the class so that they will get more involved with it and a better learning process will take place.

Warming up and Attention

The importance of having warming up activities was mentioned at the beginning of this paper, but a question remains: What is a warming up activity? Allwright (1984) considers that warm up activities are designed to attract students' attention, to help them put aside distracting thoughts, and to get them ready to focus individually and as groups on whatever activities that follow. They will cause people to stop whatever they are doing or thinking and refocus their attention. We could say a warming up activity is a motivating starting point that will lead students to become animated to work efficiently in the language class. For the purpose of our study, it was the activity used to encourage students' involvement and permeate the development of the whole lesson, so we avoided looking at them as isolated activities. These kinds of activities might also be called zealous, enthusiastic or suggestive activities. How we can include these activities in the process of a class will be the next focus in our discussion.

The Place of Warm up in the English Lesson

When preparing lesson plans for our EFL classes, we must include at least the following parts so that warming up activities can play a clear and meaningful role in our teaching. Kay (1995) describes the stages of a lesson plan in the following way:

Warm up: "It is an effective way to help the students begin to think in English and to review previously introduced material. Different types of warm ups help provide variety and interest in the lesson" (p. vi). A warm up to prepare students for a period of concentration may involve physical movement with activities that keep them active by standing up, walking, jumping, matching pictures with sentences or vocabulary, drawing or writing personal experiences or stories, and singing or listening to familiar songs and chants. These are, among others, enjoyable and motivating warms ups.

Presentation: The first part of the presentation often involves pre-teaching to encourage the flow of information. In this initial stage, we conduct activities to present the new language by providing a context for each situation.

Practice: It involves a wide variety of tasks that ensure the practice of the target language. These activities can range from controlled to less-controlled and free expressions. The activities must provide opportunities to work on a particular skill or to work integrated skill exercises. Application: The application provides students with hands-on opportunities to use what they have learned. This part of the lesson can also be considered part of the practice -particularly less controlled and free practice.

Assessment: Some assessment activities like games, tasks or projects let students carry out the activity while the teacher is circulating in the classroom monitoring their use of the language, to examine students' progress and achievement. Also, a written assessment and a self evaluation section could be included.

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