Warmers, Fillers and Coolers

Warmers, fillers and coolers are short ESL activities which can help an English class run smoothly, and they also provide interesting practice for students. They are sometimes ESL games or sometimes other types of ESL activities.

The first five of these short ESL activities are also very good for the first week of term when you are getting to know your students, and for helping them get to know each other. I would recommend any new teacher to plan a couple of fillers to keep in reserve - in case you get through your materials quicker than you expected. I still do this, as it adds flexibility to my class.

Here is a list of warmers, fillers and coolers - other similar activities can be found on the above links for ESL activities and ESL games. Enjoy your first week of term!

Name Chains

A simple way of remembering the students names in a new class (of up to around 12 students). I would begin: "I'm Mark." The first student would then say "Mark, I'm Nora." The student next to her says: "Mark, Nora. I'm Albert."This continues in a circle around the class. Higher level students could say: "Im Vicky. I'm from Hong Kong. Or they could add an adjective beginning with the same sound as their name. "Able Albert, valuable Vicky, I'm intelligent Isabel.."

Finding Things in Common

This is a good for classes where the students don't yet know each other very well. Put the students in pairs and ask them to find '5' things in common. Exclude obvious facts, like being in the same English class, same sex or being from the same city - in a monolingual class. After a few minutes they can report back to the rest of the class. It's best to have the students introduce their partner. This can bring the class together more, and helps shy students feel less self-conscious.

Find someone who...

You can do this with a photocopied table. At the top put the question(s) you want the students to ask. For example, you may want the students to find any student who speaks more than two languages... "How many languages do you speak?"

Or you may have other questions... "Would you like to go white-water rafting? And so on. Then the students stand up and mingle, asking the question(s) and writing the names of students who answer positively. After, ask for feedback. "How many people did you find who...?"

Guess the city (town, country)

A student in the class describes their city (or any city). The other students have to guess using yes/no questions. This filler can help students from different areas get to know each other better.


A good beginning of the term warmer, where students introduce themselves to the class, but must include 3 lies. The other students must guess the lies.

Word association

The first student says a word, then go around the class, each student must give a different word associated with the last one.

Mini role-plays

A useful warmer or filler. Adapt the roles to the language points you are teaching, or review functional language, or just have fun.

Find the connections between words

Give the students a set of words, e.g. river, Mars, cat. In pairs the students find connections.

Train compartment

Tell the students to imagine that they are traveling in a train compartment together. They are to begin a conversation together. Give each student a sentence. They must use it without the others noticing. At the end, they can try to guess the others 'sentence.' I've used this discussion type filler, in classes in many countries, each time with success.

This activity can be used as a filler, but it's also great as a discussion activity. It can be done fairly quickly if simple sentences are used, and if the students are used to this type of activity, but it can also lead to around 20 minutes of fluency work in a conversation class.

Meal mime

Students mime what they ate for dinner, lunch or breakfast.

Super hangman

Like ordinary hangman (see games for spelling), except that words are used instead of letters. You can tell the students if they are 'warm' if you wish, or if the word they choose is close in length to the correct word. Hangman can make a good end of class cooler.

There are plenty of other warmers, fillers and coolers - and many other longer ESL activities on this site. Follow the links below for more ideas..

from warmers to esl activities

from warmers to esl games

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