This is one of my favorite warm-up activities. It’s quick, easy, versatile and usually elicits a wide variety of results. It’s good for reviewing old vocabulary as well as setting the stage for new material. Asking for ‘five things’ can also help determine what the students already know about a given topic.
The teacher writes a category on the board. The students must write down five words that fit the category. For example:
Five things that are GREEN
Adjectives are a great conceptual link (cold / round / sweet), but verbs are just as good.
Five things that can FLY
If you’re about to review one of the ‘perfects’, warm up with five irregular past participles* (eaten / gone / made / seen / written). Ideally, you’ll get a lot of responses, which you can use in your lesson.
Categories can be virtually anything: plants, animals, places, even words that start with the same letter, if you’re focusing on spelling or pronunciation. They can also be individual: five things you cannot do / may not do.
When it comes to some words, I set limits. Yes, notebooks can be green, but are they typically green? Is coffee always sweet? (Actually, in East Java, it usually is; I might let that one slide, at least while I’m here.)
There is so much to choose from and play with. Try to keep track of the categories you give your students, especially if you use this activity on a regular basis. That way, your examples will stay fresh.
Give it a try!
*In Germany, my students called past participles the ‘third form’ and in Indonesia, they say ‘verb 3’. EFL dictionaries often include a table of irregular verbs, the third column of which lists past participles, e.g. go / went / gone.