It’s one of those days. Your lesson is packed full of information and it seems like you have a million things to accomplish before the bell rings. It’s easy to say, “I’ll just ditch the warm-up for the day. That will save a few minutes!” I know that I have been guilty of having these thoughts on numerous occasions. I have even acted on these impulses and skipped warm-ups for several days in a row. GASP! In this post I’m going to share with you (from my experience) 5 reasons I believe warm-ups are a vital part of instruction and should never be skipped.
1. Warm-ups help to set a daily routine. – In 11 years of teaching middle school students I have learned that structure within the classroom is so important. After I greet my students at the door, they know there is a warm-up that needs to be answered. I set up this routine on the first day of school. It generally begins as a disaster, but it sets the tone from day one. I try to have this routine perfectly implemented by the end of the first 2 weeks of school. Of course there are times when I have to remind certain students to work on their warm-up, but the majority of students are on task. This routine has helped to cut down on misbehavior and horseplay in the classroom while I am monitoring the hallway. When the bell rings to start class, we take 1-2 minutes before sharing or discussing the concepts on the warm-up. The best part of being consistent with a warm-up is that I never hear this anymore, “Oh man, we have a warm-up today?” 😉
2. Warm-ups help to shift student mindsets. – There’s a lot on the minds of 6-8 grade students. A fight occurs in the hallway between passing periods. Two of the most popular students like each other/or break up. A student makes a bad grade on a test. These are just a few examples of the things students are coming into the classroom thinking about. A consistent daily warm-up will help to shift the mindsets of your students to focus on science or the subject you teach. The short amount of time it takes to complete a warm-up is perfect for calming tempers, reducing anxiety, and taming overly energetic students. Warm-ups are the perfect buffer between the interactions in the hallway and your daily lesson.
3. Warm-ups allow you time to take attendance! – Seriously though, I use warm-up time every day to take attendance. This is my routine and it works for me. I used to be THAT teacher…the one the office would have to email all the time to complete my attendance. Thankfully, I found a solution. I’m consistent with daily warm-ups. Now, I am able to handle situations with students, collect homework or late assignments, and quickly check for important time-sensitive emails from school personnel during this time as well.
4. Warm-ups lead to meaningful classroom conversations. – I generally allow a few students to answer the question(s) of the day. Sometimes I choose volunteers and other times I select a table or group of students to answer. Respect is key here. My classes know that if a wrong answer is given, no rudeness or unnecessary comments will be tolerated. Everyone has been wrong before and everyone is going to be wrong at some point in the future. It happens. When a wrong answer is given, I like to have the class take a short time-out and discuss the concept with their groups. Then we come back together and have a class discussion. If the correct answer is given, I like to have the class justify why the answer is correct. I want my students to feel safe to take risks in the classroom. I strongly believe daily warm-ups help to create meaningful and encouraging classroom conversations.
5. Warm-ups review key concepts and address misconceptions in a timely manner. – A well planned warm-up can work wonders. Questions that directly relate to previous key standards are wonderful. So are questions regarding concepts that lead to major misconceptions. My 6th graders a few years ago had a lot of trouble with density. Here’s an example of one of the questions I asked, “Two pieces of Styrofoam are used for a demonstration. One of the pieces is much bigger and has holes punched in it. The other piece is smaller and has no holes punched in it. What will happen to the big piece and small piece of Styrofoam when they are placed in the water?” Since both pieces are made of the same material they will do the same thing when placed in water. Styrofoam is less dense than water so it will float. I’ve never heard such an uproar in class before. “The bigger piece will sink because it’s heavier,” or “The bigger piece will sink because it has holes in it.” We simply reviewed our density basics from the previous week and I heard a lot of, “Ohhh, that makes sense.” It only took 3-5 minutes at the most to review this key concept and address a major misconception.
If you would like to become more consistent with your daily routine, we have created an entire year of “no prep” warm-ups. Our Science Warm-Up Bundle contains 62 weeks (310 days) of warm-ups. It covers 9 different units which are all sold individually. It comes in 2 versions as well – full size format and interactive notebook format. Both of these formats and answer keys are included in the bundle. We also created a FREE Science Warm-Up sampler pack for you to check out. You’ll never have to worry about creating a warm-up again! 🙂
We’d love to hear your thoughts on warm-ups in the comments below. Thanks for reading!