Warm-Ups and Energizers to Enliven Online Lessons

Warm-Ups and Energizers to Enliven Online Lessons

By: Anna Ansari

Note: A German version of this article was first published on the ZESS Mediendidaktik blog at the University of Göttingen, Germany in December 2021.

Video conferences can really sap our energy. When Zoom fatigue sinks its claws into our students, it’s high time to switch gears. Regular breaks help. Warm-ups and energizers do, too. Here are some game-like activities you can use to either warm up students at the beginning of a lesson or to rouse sleepy students partway through.

3 out of 5

This game involves learners quickly locating objects to show their classmates, using webcams. After ensuring that all webcams are on, the teacher starts the game by naming five objects, for example, a cooking spoon, a plant, a shoe, a book, some toilet paper. The first student to find three of the five objects and show them to the class wins. Alternatively, the teacher can name a color and ask students to hunt up three objects with that color. With a little twist, teachers and students can use this game to get to know each other better. In this version, students might find “something beautiful” or “a really good book,” which they display and introduce to their classmates.

Identifying feelings

In this activity, learners pause to take stock of their emotions. Before starting, the teacher needs to enable the multi-user option for all participants on the video conference tool. Using the screen-sharing option, the teacher displays an image depicting different emotions (you can find examples here, here, or here), and asks students to identify the emotion they are currently feeling. Then, students hover their mouse over the corresponding emotion picture/word. If time permits and students are willing, they can briefly explain why they’re feeling a certain way.

Mimicking moves

In this game, students engage in physical activity, moving in and out of their webcam’s field of view. After turning on their webcams, the students stand up and move out of sight. One student spontaneously moves back into view and starts doing some kind of physical activity. The other students also go back on camera and copy the student’s moves. When the student modelling the activity is finished, he/she jumps out of view, and the other students quickly follow suit. The game continues as another student takes on the leader role by stepping back into view and starting his/her own moves.

As an alternative, the teacher can use an online random wheel with different exercises like this one. The teacher displays the online random wheel using the screen share, spins it, and the students do whatever activity the spinner lands on.

Remove your sticky note if you . . .

This activity is a nice way for students to discover commonalities. Before class, the teacher jots down a short list of things, interests, habits, etc. that some or all students might have in common. When it’s time to start the activity during class, each student turns on his/her webcam and covers it with a sticky note. Next, the teacher says, “Remove your sticky note if you . . .,” and finishes the sentence with an item from the list. Examples include “had muesli for breakfast today,” “have a brother or sister,” or “are wearing slippers.” Students uncover their webcams if the statement is true for them, making it easy to identify which students have that particular point in common. To continue with the next item on the teacher’s list, students simply cover their webcams again.

Either-or questions

This last game involves physical movement and choices. To get ready, students turn on their webcams and stand up with their arms hanging loosely by their sides. They also position their chairs right behind themselves. The teacher starts by asking an either-or question, like “Summer or winter?” Those who prefer the first option (summer) raise both arms. Those who like the second option better (winter) sit down. The teacher continues with more rounds as appropriate. You can find more either-or questions here.


Concentrating hard on content during an online lesson is a sure way to trigger Zoom fatigue. Regular breaks paired with short activities tailored to your students can stave off Zoom fatigue and keep student interest high.

Further Reading

Anna Ansari is studying German for a master’s degree and works in the field of media didactics at the University of Göttingen, Germany. The highest accolade she ever received was “Chatterbox of the Year” in high school.

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