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My Favorite Warm-Up Activity

January 31, 2013

Adjectives with a twist…

This activity involves using adjectives to describe animals. There’s a twist, though: you will later reveal that the students are actually describing themselves! Use this warm‑up activity when you’re doing a unit on adjectives or descriptions. It’s also a good way for students to teach each other new vocabulary. You could also use it when you have a class of new students to break the ice. Students always end up laughing, so it’s a great way to start a class.

Step #1

Get students to think of three animals they like.

Have them write the animal names on a piece of paper. For example, a student might choose tiger, bear, and rabbit.

Step #2

Have students write three adjectives to describe each animal.

Give some examples:

Animal Adjectives
tiger aggressive, strong, fast
bear big, furry, hungry
rabbit shy, cute, cuddly

After writing some examples on the board, I prefer to let students come up with adjectives on their own so that they don’t all end up with the same ones. If they’re looking a little lost, you could have a brainstorming session as a class before they write their words.

For lower‑level classes, these adjectives can be basic, such as cute, strong, big, little, furry, lovable, etc.

For higher‑level classes, challenge students to find adjectives that their classmates may not know, such as ferocious, majestic, etc. (allow dictionary use if you’d like).

Circulate to make sure students are not writing nouns by mistake (this often happens).

Get faster students to help slower students come up with their last few adjectives.

Step #3

Have them read out their adjective lists.

Put students in groups of four or five and have them read out their adjectives. But instead of saying the animal names, they must use the phrases “I think I am” + 3 adjectives, “My friends think I am” + 3 adjectives, “I am really” + 3 adjectives. Explain that the adjectives represent how you see yourself, how your friends see you, and how you really are.

Use your example to model this before they begin. For example:

I think I am aggressive, strong, and fast.

My friends think I am big, furry, and hungry.

I am really shy, cute, and cuddly.

See what everyone has come up with! Share a few of the funnier answers with the whole class.

Have fun,


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Comments (27)

Peggy (Guest)

Such a good suggestion, Tanya. It's an exercise that engages the student -- and who doesn't like to have fun when they learn? Thank you for sharing this idea. I'm sending a link to your blog to my son (he teaches English in Korea).

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

Thank you, Peggy! I hope your son enjoys it. :)

Atia A.(Teacher)

Hi there,
Thanks a lot for the new lessons. I really like them.
However, I miss a listening in each unit.
It would not be very difficult for you to please have a recording set up
with each reading. That really helps with pronunciation of new vocabulary items, and saves a lot of teacher talking time.
Thank you.
Looking forward to having the recordings soon.

Reply to Comment

Tara Benwell(Author)

Hi Atia,
Thanks for your suggestion. We have recordings for many of our readings. Check out the ESL-Library Podcast here for 150 recordings. We add a new one every Wednesday. You can search by topic on the blog to find the listening. If you ever need a specific recording that we haven't done yet, please ask!

Tanya Trusler(Author)

Thanks for providing that link, Tara. I agree with Atia that listening exercises are very important. It's often difficult for teachers to come up with suitable supplementary material, so it's great that ESL-Library has so many premade listening activities! :)

Walid Wiloo(Guest)

Hi Tanya! I really like this and I'm sure I will use this in my classes!
I'm an english teacher from Algeria and I'm looking for games that can be palyed in socializing as I'm in charge of social program in the school,but I can't find bright ideas for such an event! please if you know any website or any games that can help me this! let me know ^_^ ,thank you in advance


Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

Thanks, Walid! I'm happy to hear it.

I agree that it can be a challenge to find fun games and activities. Have you seen the Warm-Ups and Fillers and Tips and Ideas sections on our site? There are lots of ideas for fun activities you can use at your school. The posts by our guest blogger, Shelly Terrell, are often full of links to other sites that have lots of games, too.

There's also a great book called 'Fun with Grammar: Communicative Activities for the Azar Grammar Series, Teacher's Resource Book' by Suzanne Woodward. I often used activities and games from this book as warm-ups or fillers relating to the grammar point I was teaching that day. These activities really get the students talking, moving, and laughing, and are also educational.

Sounds like you've got a great job! Enjoy!!

Ahmad Jan(Guest)

This is a great activity. I have done it slightly differently. I asked my students to think of 3 adjective which describe a city. For example, cosmopolitan, crowded and old. Students had to write these adjectives on a piece of paper and pass it to someone next to them. I asked the students to complete this sentence using those adjectives about their friends and report to the class if they find something funny.

After 10 years, my friend will be___________________.

Students came with sentences like:
After 10 years, my friend will be cosmopolitan.
After 10 years, my friend will be huge.
After 10 years, my friend will be dirty. etc.

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

Great variation, Ahmad! Thanks for sharing.

Christine O.(Teacher)

I LOVE this idea and will use it tomorrow, followed by the students reading about the characteristics of their astrological sign for more adjective vocabulary and discussion. Thanks!

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

Love that follow-up activity, Christine! Hope your students enjoy both activities!

Reply to Comment

David (Guest)

Such a great idea for a warm up. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

You're welcome, David! I hope your students enjoy it as much as mine do. Thanks for commenting!

Yvette Uys(Guest)

Thank you! What a wonderful idea!

Reply to Comment

Lei Kayanuma(Author)

Hi Yvette, thanks for your comment. I hope you and your students enjoy the fun activity!!

Ragini S.(Member)

Very interesting !! Can I use it for grade 2 students? do you think it is high for that age group?

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

Hi Ragini, for that age group I would brainstorm adjectives together as a class first. I'd aim for 15–20 for variety, and I'd have a list of suitable adjectives ready with definitions in case they weren't able to come up with that many. Once they have a list of adjectives to choose from, your students shouldn't have trouble completing the task! I'd also suggest circulating while they complete the writing portion as I've found students of all age groups often write nouns instead of adjectives by mistake. That will give you a chance to make corrections before they read out their lists. Happy teaching!

Ragini S.(Member)

happy to be here :)

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

We're very happy to have you here too, Ragini! We hope you and your students enjoy the site.

Janeva B.(Teacher)

What an excellent activity for any age student!

Reply to Comment

Tara Benwell(Author)

We're happy you like this activity idea. You're right. It's a hit with any age!

Claudia F.(Member)

That`s an amazing activity.

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

Thanks, Claudia! My students always loved it.

Susanni J.(Teacher)

This looks like a really fun activity. Always looking for things like this to lighten the lesson. Thank you

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

Thanks for your comment, Susanni! I've done this activity with so many classes, and my students always seem to enjoy it no matter their age or level.

Mia N.(Teacher)

so fun. Thanks!!!!!

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

We're glad you liked it! Happy teaching, Mia!

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