Five warm-up activities for EFL students using technology


Here are a few ideas for warm-up activities using technology. 

1) QR Codes vocabulary quiz

A fun activity you can do with your students is using QR codes to revise vocabulary. If you are not sure what QR codes are, they are those strange barcode like things you see sometimes on adverts or in shop windows which you have to scan with your phone to take you to a website or to give you information about an offer or discount. They are surprisingly easy to create and there are many websites you can visit to create them. 
Here’s a QR code. Can you scan it?
What I do with my students is create QR codes that link to particular text and this text can be either words that the students would then have to define or alternatively definitions that the students would then have to think of the word for. These are then scattered around the class for the students to find. It’s really no different from from a traditional vocabulary activity but the act of embedding it into QR codes and adding movement makes it so much more motivating.
To create the QR codes you can go to a website like this one. You just click the tab that says ‘text’, type in the text you want to create a QR code for, click the generate button and the QR code is created. If you then want to download that QR code so you can print it out by clicking on it and choose ‘save image as’ and it will download to your computer. You are then free to print that out as a picture. My advice would be to insert them into a Word document so you can resize and make them reasonably small, and then it’s easy to cut them up and put them around the classroom in various places.
A strategic QR code in the classroom
To set this activity up, get to the class beforehand and just stick these QR codes around the classroom in various places. You can make them hard to reach or very easy to see. Normally I’ll organise the students into groups or pairs, one person is the scribe and the other one or two have the job of going round and finding the QR codes and scanning them with their smart phones. They then have to come back to the scribe tell them what’s written on the code and they write it down. Once they have found all of them, their job is to either define the word or find the word that is being defined.
Remember that for the students to actually read them the QR codes they do need a QR reader but there are many of these available in the various app stores and it’s very likely that many of them will already have them installed on their phone.

2) Geography game

This activity does require students to have a computer in front of them so you would need to be in the computer room or if you’ve got laptops you can bring these into the classroom. This involves a rather wonderful website called Geoguessr where students are presented with a random Google Street view and they have to make a guess about where it is in the world using contextual clues. This is fabulous for practising speculation language such as ‘it might be’, ‘it could be’, ‘I think it may be’ etc. 
Until recently there was no control over which places students were shown on the website, but a new website connected to this has been developed, Geosettr, that allows teachers to actually specify five places that students are going to see. This is great because you can make it more competitive as all students in the class are going to be seeing the same five places. It also means you can avoid them being shown just random pieces of scenery which give no contextual clues as to where the places are and you can find places where there’s lots of writing on walls and roadsigns that will help them guess.

3) Close-up pictures

Another activity which is great for speculative language is by showing them some very close-up pictures you took with your smart phone. This can be done very quickly by going into your staffroom or looking around your desk and taking very, very close-up pictures of different objects, showing them to the students and trying to get them to guess what they are. 
This is one of the pics I showed. What is it?
You can display these pictures on the class projector in your our classroom or you can send them to the students if they have mobile phones with Internet connection and they can access them through email or a class VLE. 
A follow-up to this, assuming you have the time, is that you can get the students to do this themselves. They can go for a few minutes around the school with a partner and take some pictures of things close up and then show them to the other members of the group. Alternatively, they could do this before they come to class and send them to the class VLE.

4) Word clouds

An engaging way to revise a text and the accompanying vocabulary that you have recently looked at in class is to create a word cloud and then getting students to look at the word cloud to try to reconstruct the text. These word clouds generally emphasise keywords and will make words that appear more frequently bigger. This helps students because they were able to identify repeating ideas or common themes in the text and this helps them to reconstruct it. 
To create a word cloud, you can go to popular websites such as Wordle or Tagxedo. This can be printed out from the website or you can just show on the board.

5) Online Quizzes

students can take the quiz on their phones
A quick online quiz can be a great way to start a lesson and there are loads of websites out there for creating them. The one I tend to use most is Socrative simply because it’s so easy to use both for the teachers and the students. The teacher does have to register to make a quiz but it’s a fairly painless procedure. You can build multiple-choice or short answer quizzes, and these can easily be made available to the students by them going to a particular webpage on either a computer or their mobile phone (there is also a mobile app) and just typing in a room number that the teacher assigns. 
They can then take the quiz and get instant feedback on their answers. As a teacher you can display the progress of the students on the board and you can control whether the students go at their own pace or a pace you decide. Again this is quite nice the checking recent vocabulary Grammar or anything else you want to revise or recycle from your lessons.

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About David Read

I work at the English Language Teaching Centre at the University of Sheffield as the Director of TEL (technology-enhanced learning). I've been an EFL/EAP teacher and teacher trainer for over 20 years and have worked in 14 different countries. Settling down is clearly an issue for me.

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