Warm-ups are the first activity that students do when they enter a foreign language class each day. Their goal is to physically and mentally prepare the class so that subsequent instruction is more effective. This description seems very logical and in fact for many years I did warm-up activities that in my mind prepared the students to enter the class with more energy and motivation.
One day an analogy with cars occurred to me. I remembered that when I was a child, my father had a 1968 Studebaker, a light green metal behemoth that required warming up before my father could drive to work. Every morning my father would start this car 10 minutes before leaving. This in order to warm up the engine and thus not have any inconvenience during his trip to the university where he taught.
Well, for many years I assumed that all cars should be warmed before being used, but the years passed and we are today in 2022 when cars no longer need this warming since they use ultra-fast electronic ignition mechanisms and efficient engines ready to go and move the car instantly.
That’s when I felt that by asking my students to do a warm-up activity, I was treating them like old Studebakers, like nothing in our society had changed, like they weren’t 21st century students. My eyes widened to realize that I was looking at a bunch of high-tech cars, and these students don’t need a formal warm-up to perform well in class. I knew that something had to change, I knew that I needed to know a lot about their world and their interactions. I realized that today’s students understand school as more of a social space than an academic one and that although this may be frowned upon by most teachers, it is actually giving us the key to an education that is more in keeping with the times.
What is a foreign language class? For years we have understood it (or misunderstood it) as a space where we talk about the operation of that foreign language and how it relates to our own. For this reason, endless grammar lessons and tedious oral and written repetitions were frequent during class. Today we understand that the language class should be a space where, beyond practicing the foreign language, we must use it. The foreign language class should be a space where the teacher can create situations where students use the second language in a relevant, interesting way that helps build community among them.
It is for all of the above that my second purpose for 2023 is to continue opening my classes with conversations and not with warm-ups. I have been doing this for a few years now and the results are magnificent. Students tend to connect more and better when they see that we are interested in what happens to them every day from the very beginning of class. In order to achieve this we must have an open mind and be ready to talk about any subject once we ask them the two most important questions: How are you today? and why?. These two questions will take us down a variety of paths, from how well they slept to how much work they have at school and whatever else is on their mind.
The minds of the students are occupied with various thoughts, ideas, worries and even problems. We must learn to use what is in their mind in favor of the foreign language class. We are wrong when we try to empty their minds of their own thoughts to try to fill it with content related to the curriculum of our class.
No more warm ups! Our students already come with built-in electronic ignition!
You might be interested in reading THIS blog post as it contains an example: Killing the Classic “Warm Up”.
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I already use no warm ups but conversations. Sometimes writing their own feelings in Spanish. I don’t really like warm ups. Thank you for your ideas. They are really practical.
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Thank you for reading the post. Have a wonderful 2023!
Interesting. Could you elaborate. Is it only conversation, no writing? Is it graded? Is it topic oriented? Every day? Thank you.
Here: https://srojeda.com/2020/02/17/killing-the-classic-warm-up-in-the-wl-class/ 🙂
Great ideas! I shared this on a Facebook group post for Spanish teachers.
Thank you !
I’m in my 3rd year as an out-of-the-classroom retiree, but I am gratified to read your “no more warm-ups” posts. For the 17 years that I taught I only did a couple warm-up/do now/bell ringer activities to satisfy a high school principal when observing my classroom, because he thought they were important and had them on the check-list he used to grade me. I really didn’t like planning or demanding them. I figured if students got to our classroom before the bell rang they could use the moment to compose themselves however they wanted to, and when I was ready to start class I was comfortable just starting and expecting the students to start with me. A 5 minute warm-up at the beginning and a 5 minute cool-down for exit at the end would have cut my 42-minute class period to 32 minutes. At any rate, even though I’m retired it’s nice to feel that I’m not alone. By the way, we had a Studebaker, too, but I’m pretty sure a Studebaker was a Studebaker and not a Ford. 🙂
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Thank you for your comment. Love it! And you are right! Is not a Ford lol! It’s me living in Louisville and thinking that every car is a ford lol . Una abrazo!
I love doing daily check-in‘s too, especially with Spanish One students. However, sometimes during this activity, I forget to post attendance and I get that phone call from the office. How do you manage to do your daily welcome conversations and post attendance at the same time. Additionally, My desk is in the back of the room, due to technology wiring, and I am at the front of the room, holding these little conversations at the beginning of each class.
Once you start doing this everyday it’s easy to take attendance while keeping the conversation open.
I have been doing this since 2018. I just have not mastered doing it and taking attendance at the same time because I have to go to the back of the room to post attendance on my desktop. I mean, I guess I could still have a conversation with them while my back is turned to them and I’m trying to correctly mark who is in class and who is not in class, but I was really looking for suggestions if you have any.
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