The most effective warm-up activities are those that help elementary school students deepen bonds and build upon prior knowledge. Whether you implement them in the morning meetings, after lunch, or before any old vocabulary lesson, they must provide an opportunity for your active learners to engage with the topic at hand and feel like part of your unique classroom community. From ESL warm-up activities to those that will challenge even your most advanced learners, this list of ideas is a great place to start!
Speaking positive words over your students sets kids' minds at ease first thing in the morning. Knowing that you have unconditional positive regard for them will build the kind of steady, trusting relationship that all little ones can benefit from!
Learn more: Family Fun Simplified
2. Mindfulness Activities
Utilizing the practice of mindfulness is a great way to help students center themselves and access self-regulation skills before fully embracing the demands of the school day. Try the Zen Den from Cosmic Kids or The Mental Health Teacher's Mindful Moments for a quick lesson warm-up!
Learn more: Very Special Tales
3. Breathing Exercises
Using stories to practice taking deep breaths together as a class is a perfect way to connect and access a sense of calm early in the day. Use some guided breathing videos, or come up with your own silly stories or animals to breathe like!
Learn more: Moshi Kids
4. Sensory Pathways
Sensory pathways are the perfect way to get children's bodies moving with a purpose first thing in the morning, or whenever they need a reset! Movement tasks like hopping, bear crawls, wall push-ups and twirling will help with sensory regulation for your beginner learners or more active students.
Learn more: We Are Teachers
Building Classroom Community
5. "I Love You" Rituals
Conscious Discipline's concept of "I Love You Rituals" help to improve children's self-esteem, teaches gentleness, and creates caring connections between children, caregivers, and peers. Based on nursery rhymes or simple children's games, these rituals are easy to incorporate from early childhood onwards!
Learn more: Conscious Discipline
6. Clapping Games
Playing clapping circle games like "Miss Mary Mack," "The Cup Game," and "Patty Cake" are great ways to teach students rhythm and patterns. While they play in pairs or small groups, students will also form positive connections with their peers and just enjoy being with one another!
Learn more: Today's Parent
7. Name Songs
Using name songs as a daily warm-up activity is particularly important at the beginning of the year as students build relationships. Songs and chants where individual students sing, clap, or stomp their name work as a great icebreaker between students while they also work on literacy!
Learn more: Teaching Mama
8. Plate Name Game
This simple circle game will help students connect with their peers. Write each student's name on a paper plate, then have students stand in a circle, count down (hello, math!), and toss them like Frisbees into the air. Students choose a plate, find that student, and greet them!
Learn more: Tickled Pink in Primary
9. Mirror, Mirror
"Mirror, Mirror" is a perfect ice-breaker activity students will love! Two children face one another. As one student moves different parts of their body, their partner mirrors their movements. Challenge them to move more and more quickly by the end of each turn to stump their partner!
Learn more: Go Go Yoga Kids
10. Interactive Notebooks
While daily journaling is a beneficial practice, the traditional version can get stale. Instead, take the first 5-10 minutes of your day to have children complete interactive notebooks! They are growing, reflective projects that you can adapt to any topic. They're also useful for both beginner and advanced learners!
Learn more: Enchanted Kindergarten
11. Boom Cards
Boom Cards are digital flashcards that you can use as a fun activity to introduce new content or review previous lessons. Divide students into teams and compete as a morning circle game, or have students play on individual devices. Decks already exist for any topic you can imagine!
Learn more: Features 4 Teachers
12. Sight Word Snap
To prepare for your reading block, your elementary school students can practice sight words with this fun game! Groups of 2-4 students will take turns drawing a sight word written on a popsicle stick. If they can read it, they keep it! If not, it goes back into the cup!
Learn more: School Time Snippets
13. Phonological Awareness Tasks
Phonological awareness, or recognizing that words are made up of sounds that can be manipulated, is one of the most important components of early literacy. Working in some practice doesn't have to mean a whole lesson! Try out these tasks for an activity you can do on the go!
Learn more: Campbell Creates Readers
14. Story Circles
Story circles are a great way to get children talking to one another, developing vocabulary, and practicing polite, respectful listening skills! Let children sit in groups of 2-4 students, and share about a particular topic. Brainstorm a list of future topics together once they get the basics down!
Learn more: Kitchen Counter Chronicle
15. Word Ladders
Lewis Carroll's word ladders are a simple and easy ESL warm-up activity to practice with letter sounds and word families. These fun games will challenge students to link a beginning and ending word by manipulating just one letter through several steps.
Learn more: Emily Hutchison TPT
A quick and fun play-dough activity is perfect for reviewing previous lessons on letter formation, as well as serving as an effective warm-up activity for those hardworking hands! For more advanced students, have them try to build all the letters in their name or a sight word.
Learn more: Preschool Play and Learn
17. Drawing Games
Draw My Picture is an ESL warm-up activity that students can enjoy anytime! Take about 5-7 minutes, in the beginning, to get in some oral language practice. Students work in pairs where one student describes a picture to their partner, who tries to draw what they say!
Learn more: Homeschool With Love
18. Sight Word Spinners
A perfect small group & ESL warm-up activity! Children will use the printables, a pencil, and a paperclip to choose a category. Then, children read the words in that category as fast as they can to develop their fluency!
Learn more: Miss Decarbo
19. Special Word Detectives
In this fun activity, you will start by handing out unusual words written on slips of paper. Then, you will challenge students to mingle in groups and use the word you provided in their conversation. Afterward, your students will try to guess the mystery word each classmate had!
Learn more: Oxford University Press
Math Warm-Up Activities
20. Math Talks
Math talks are a perfect way to get children's brains to start to compare and contrast, recognize patterns, count, and more! Pose a question that encourages discussion because it may have more than one answer. Children can then share their ideas and perspectives aloud with classmates.
Learn more: Edutopia
21. Loose Parts Tinker Trays
Playing open-endedly with loose parts is the perfect warm-up activity for your students in those first 10-20 minutes of class. As students create, you will notice symmetry, patterning, shapes, and one-to-one correspondence arising from their play! This is a perfect activity for both a warm-up and a formative assessment tool.
Learn more: Pre-K Pages
22. Counting Songs
Songs that incorporate counting are the perfect ESL warm-up activity for your beginner learners. Consistent practice in counting up and down from a number can help bolster number recognition and fluency! The rhyme and rhythm of the song will also improve phonemic awareness. Try "Five Little Ducks" or "Here is the Beehive."
Learn more: Empowered Parents
23. Follow the Line
Cover your tables with butcher paper and decorate them with marker designs of swirling lines, zig-zags, shapes, or letters. Let students use small manipulatives like glass beads, stickers, or thematic materials to follow the lines and activate fine motor skills!
Learn more: Active Littles
24. Math Jeopardy
Kids will love playing math Jeopardy! Give students a number, unit, measurement, etc., and have them come up with a question that could lead to it. You can easily adapt this game to meet the needs of your physical classroom or online classes!
Learn more: Infinity Math Creations
25. Dice Movement
Dice movement games are the perfect way to actively practice simple math skills like subitizing (determining the value without counting) and number recognition. Challenge students by changing the way numbers are represented on the dice!
Learn more: Hey Let's Make Stuff
26. Memory Tray
This fun memory game engages children's visual discrimination skills and works on their vocabulary development. Arrange several theme-related items on a tray. Let children try to name and memorize the items for between 30 seconds and 1 minute. Hide the tray and take one away. Have students guess what is missing!
Learn more: Play to Learn Preschool