Fun 5-Minute Starters for Language Classrooms Which Get Students into Learning Mode
I posted on my Facebook page recently that I have been implementing 5-minute starters with all my language groups recently. Not only with my ESOL classes, but with my private French, German and English classes too. The aim is to get students into ‘learning mode’ as soon as they enter the classroom or learning environment. I have rounded up my favourite 5-minute starters below, which have been divided into starter activity type. So, if you are looking for a snappy vocabulary starter activities, error-correction tasks, something to focus students on sentences or to develop comprehension abilities, check out the corresponding sections below. All of these language starter activities take around 5 minutes to complete and they get students’ heads down and focused as soon as they enter the classroom.
If you like the 5-minute starter activities, why not download the handy 5-minute starters for language lessons PDF to stick up or add to your teaching repertoire? It’s at the bottom of this warmer ideas post.
Fun, Low-Prep 5-Minute Starters for All Language Classrooms
5-MINUTE VOCABULARY STARTERS
- ‘Name 3′ (Vocabulary Starter Activity) – I came across this vocabulary activity online recently and I loved it as soon as I saw it. Provide students with a PowerPoint slide or an A5 worksheet with a number of ‘Name 3 __________ ‘ type tasks. They could be something as simple as: ‘name 3 yellow things’ / ‘name 3 things you do in the morning’ / ‘name 3 oceans’ etc. I recommend a maximum of 9, as this includes time to think, write, pair and share as a group too. If you have too many, this 5-minute starter activity takes far too long!
- ‘Odd One Out’ (Vocabulary or Grammar Starter Activity) – Have a list of words / phrases in rows, each with at least one ‘odd one out’. It is usually possible to have more than one odd one out, but providing the students can identify the problem and justify it, there is no ‘right’ answer!
- Scrabble Words (Vocabulary Starter Activity) – Have an image of scrabble pieces with the letters in the language that you teach (including point values for each). Advise students they must compete against their peers to think of a word, related to a given topic, which will give them the most points. The winner will be the person who writes the topic-related word with most points overall. Share ideas after 2-3 minutes with the whole class.
- 3 x 3 Words (Vocabulary Starter Activity) – Have a grid with 9 squares on the board or screen with 8 letters pre-assigned. Allow one student to choose the middle letter and add it in. For 3 minutes, students must work individually to find target language words (on a given topic), ensuring the letter in the middle is used in every word. Set rules: i.e. no plurals, minimum 3 letters, only use each letter once, no proper nouns, etc. The students with a)the most words and b) the longest word win.
- Hangman (Vocabulary Starter Activity) – A very simple 5-minute starter for any language lesson! Start with one round of hangman by writing the clue, i.e. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ on the board. This could be the title of the lesson, or a key word that they should know from the previous lesson. Pick students at random to choose a letter, in target language. The winner is the student who knows the word or phrase and can spell it out in target language.
- A-Z Vocab Challenge (Vocabulary Starter Activity) – Give students a topic and within 5 minutes, they must write down a word starting with each letter of your target language’s alphabet. To speed things up, split your classes up and give one half of the class the first half of the alphabet and the other half of the group the second half of the alphabet. If you have time, share ideas. Alternatively, pick on any letters which haven’t been completed by a few students and get these added into their lists.
- One, Two, Three….Spell! (Spelling Starter Activity) – Have a list of words ready and start spelling each word out slowly, letter by letter. Students must write down what they hear. Repeat the word once or twice more, level dependent. Project the correct answers on the board and get students to peer correct. Go through translations of any tricky words.
- The Highlight of My Day (Vocabulary Starter Activity) – As students enter, give them each a different letter and advise they must remember it. Provide them with a title-less text and ask them to highlight every single word in the text containing that letter. Instruct that they must read and try to understand each word containing that given letter because they will have to do something with them after the allotted time. Once sufficient time has been given for highlighting, ask students to a) tell their neighbour as many words as they can remember which contained their letter b) tell their neighbour one sentence to say what they think the text was about, i.e. it was about school / media.
- Key Terms (Vocabulary Starter Activity) – Write down a key term on the board, students have the challenge of writing as many related words as they can within 2-4 minutes. Share ideas and add to list. Correct common spelling errors as a group.
- Categorising (Vocabulary / Sentence Starter Activity) – Provide a list of 10-30 words (or sentences too!), depending on the topic or level. Get students to categorise them. The catch is, that they have to choose the headings. A very good 5-minute starter that gets all students involved with their heads down immediately!
- Acrostic (Vocabulary Starter Activity) – write a word / phrase in target language DOWN the board, i.e. SPORT and students must write related words which start with each letter of the word or phrase, i.e (Schwitzen / Probieren / Olympiade / Ringen / Treiben
- Alphabetise Words (Vocabulary Starter Activity) – Provide students with words or sentences, related to the topic you are working on. Advise that they must alphabetise all the words (i.e. put the words in the mixed order on the sheet from A-Z in their books). Their homework could be to translate OR add the translations in during the proceeding lessons.
- Categorise Verbs / Nouns / Adjectives ( 5-Minute Language Vocabulary Starter) – Give students a text and get them to pick out and categorise all of the verbs, nouns and adjectives in columns.
ERROR CORRECTION 5-MINUTE LANGUAGE CLASSROOM STARTERS
- ‘Spot The Errors’ (Error Correction Starter Activity) – Provide students with a text containing 5-10 errors. These could be the same type of error throughout, or a variety of different errors. This includes: grammatical errors, spelling errors, wrong vocab choice, punctuation mistakes etc. Why not use it to re-cap topic material covered the previous lesson?
- Is It Right? (Error Correction Starter Activity) – Provide students with 6, 9, 12, 15 words or sentences, depending on the level, all of which contain one spelling error. Students must underline the error and correct it. Go through answers together and take in marks.
SENTENCE LEVEL 5-MINUTE LANGUAGE CLASSROOM STARTERS
- Questions (Sentence Level Starter Activity) – Provide students with written questions in target language on speech bubbles (each of which has a point value). Students must write an answer to the chosen question number with point value in target language. The student to collate the most points wins! Set rules, such as minimum word-count for each answer.
- Comparisons (Sentence Production Starter Activity) – Show 4 pairs of words or ‘clip art’ style images on the board or screen, such as ‘orange and pear’, ‘man and woman’, ‘coffee and tea’, ‘French and English’. Advise students to compare each pair with a short sentence or short paragraph, depending on level, i.e. “les oranges sont oranges, mais une poire est verte”
- Question Me (Sentence Production Starter Activity) – To practise question forms in a starter activity, give students one, two or three words to begin. Advise the task is to create questions in target language using any or all of the words. Set ground rules, such as minimum 3 words, use a different word to start each question etc.
- Photo Description (Sentence Production Starter Activity) – Put a photo on the board and either provide students with true/false sentences that they must correct, or get students to write 3-5 sentences or a short paragraph to describe the picture in detail for 5 minutes. Read to neighbour aloud after 5 minutes and get a couple to volunteer to read theirs aloud to the class.
- Silent Video (Sentence Production Starter Activity) – Get students to watch a short silent clip as they enter the classroom and sit down for 1-2 minutes. The students must describe the next scene verbally in a few sentences to their partner when it finishes.
- 21 Words (Sentence Production Starter Activity) – Give students a topic and a number of words (this could be 5/15/21 etc) as they enter. Ask them to write a phrase, sentence or short paragraph on that topic using exactly that number of words. Read out to partner after given time. Get a couple of student to read out their sentences and ask the other students to count word numbers as they read for others to get more ideas
- Two-Way Translation (Sentence Starter Activity) – Show students a text in target language and get them to translate into language 1 (native language). Hide the original target language text and students have to translate back.
- Re-order Sentences / Questions (Sentence Level Language Warmer Activity) – As students enter the classroom, give them a handout with a number of jumbled sentences for them to re-write in the write order, to make sentences and questions which make grammatical sense.
COMPREHENSION BASED 5-MINUTE LANGUAGE CLASSROOM STARTERS
- True or False? (Comprehension Starter Activity) – Have a well-known, true short story printed out in target language. For example, a story about a teacher at the school, or something with local history. However, include 1-3 ‘false’ facts within in that students must correct. For the teacher, this could be their age, gender or how long they have taught at the school. Don’t make all of the false information too easy to guess, otherwise it could take 30 seconds, instead of 5-minutes!
- Cryptogram (Comprehension Challenge Starter Activity) – Students love this 5-minute starter activity, because it’s a challenge! Choose the topic, add the title to the software, copy and paste some text in in target language and choose 2-4 letters to help the students solve the cryptogram. My advice with this awesome 5 minute starter for all language classrooms is to keep the sentences / paragraph short, so the starter doesn’t take up the whole lesson! Also, they only have English letters, numbers or Greek letters, so you won’t be able to use accents for languages such as French, German or Spanish.
- Draw It! (Comprehension Starter Activity) Give students a few sentences or a chunky paragraph (written or spoken) with vivid, descriptive vocabulary and get them to draw what they have read or what they hear.
So, there you have them. The best 25 starter activities to settle learners in your language classrooms. I hope you find them useful. If you did, you can download my handy 5-minute starter activities for the language classroom here:
Did you enjoy this 5-minute starters for language classrooms post? If so, be sure to check out these posts to improve language acquisition here too:
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