April 29, 2023

Fun Warm-Up Activities for CELPIP Lessons

Warm-up Activities for CELPIP Prep Classes

Starting each lesson with a 5- to 15-minute warm-up is a way to build rapport, get learners thinking in English, review previous material, and generate language or ideas relevant to the day’s lesson. While it’s true that most learners in a CELPIP prep course will expect a fairly serious classroom atmosphere overall, there are many reasons not to avoid lighthearted activities completely, and warm-ups are an ideal time to incorporate some fun. Warm-ups that involve humour or creativity can:

  • generate enthusiasm about the lesson topic
  • allow learners to make personal connections to the topic
  • increase retention of vocabulary and grammar by eliciting memorable language use
  • facilitate more relaxed and confident productive skills practice
  • help learners think on their feet and access language in the moment

These outcomes are all beneficial for language learning in general and for the CELPIP Test specifically. This post will describe a few minimal-prep warm-ups that can be fitted to a variety of contexts.


5-Minute Freewrite

This is a no-prep activity: all you have to do is come up with an engaging question and write it on the board! If you want the exercise to serve as review, relate the question to the topic or content of a previous lesson. If you want to generate language and ideas to use in that day’s class, relate it to the lesson topic. You may also want to write a question that resembles a CELPIP Writing or Speaking prompt, such as a choice between two options, an experience to describe, a dilemma to consider, or an opinion question. Choose an open-ended question that will be accessible to everyone, and avoid questions that might create distress or require sharing overly personal information. Here are some examples:

  • What would you do if you found a $20 bill on the classroom floor during a break? Why?
  • Which do you find more helpful: an English class where the teacher always speaks English, or one where the teacher explains things in your native language? Why?
  • Would you rather do a job that you really love, or a job with a high salary? Why?
  • Describe a time when you took a big risk. Why did you do it, and did it have good results?
  • Describe a time when you were lost. Where were you, where did you want to go, and how did you find your way?
  • If you could only keep one possession that you own, what would it be and why? (People and pets don’t count; pick an object!)
  • If you could spend a month in any country in the world, where would you go and what would you do there?
  • What is a job that you definitely wouldn’t enjoy? Why wouldn’t you enjoy it?
  • Where do you think you will be ten years from now? What will you be doing?

Instruct learners that they will have five minutes to write whatever comes to mind, without worrying about structure, organization, or length. They should keep writing for the full five minutes—no stopping! Don’t allow them to consult electronic dictionaries. Let them know when to start, and give a one-minute warning so they can finish the sentence they’re working on before the time is up.

Once the time is up, you can use the responses in a variety of ways, such as any or all of the following:

  • Have learners set their responses aside, then pair them and have them repeat the exercise, this time taking turns to deliver a 90-second response to the same question out loud. They can use ideas from their writing, but they don’t have to. In this way, the writing serves as a sort of brainstorming or outlining exercise for a speaking task.
  • Have a short group discussion about the responses: elicit ideas from the group and ask some follow-up questions that require them to produce additional details, reasons, etc. in the moment. This can be a good springboard for a discussion of main ideas and supporting details.
  • Ask if any grammar or vocabulary questions arose as they were writing. Field a few of these, eliciting answers from the class as much as possible.
  • Have learners submit their writing to you as a quick formative assessment. (If you plan to do this, it’s best not to inform them in advance that they will be submitting their work. It’s also best not to give a grade to a freewriting assignment. Treat the responses as informational, a snapshot that will give some insight into each learner’s strengths and weaknesses.)


Team Sentence Challenge

This works well as a grammar and/or vocabulary review exercise. To prepare, cut some paper into strips (about 3 strips per 8.5×11 sheet) and ensure you have a set of markers that work. Think of a few words or constructions that you want learners to practice using.

In class, pair the learners and distribute one marker and three slips of paper to each team. Ensure that everyone’s books are closed and no devices are within reach. Let learners know that you will be giving them instructions for writing a sentence and then they will have 90 seconds to write a sentence together. One member of the team should write the sentence on one of the slips of paper, making the text as large and readable as possible.

Then, give your instructions, such as “Write a sentence using the word _____,” or “Write a sentence in the second conditional.” If your learners are intermediate or advanced, you may want to give both a word and a construction to use (e.g., “Write a sentence that contains a subordinate clause and uses the word ____”). You can also add additional parameters, such as “Your sentence must be at least 12 words long” or “Don’t use first person.” If you are giving multiple instructions, write them on the board.

Start the timer. As soon as the 90 seconds is up, take each team’s slip of paper. Hold up each sentence so everyone can see it, and read it out loud. Ask the class if it’s correct or if they can see any errors. If there are errors, elicit corrections. If not, congratulate the writers on a perfect sentence! Repeat this procedure two more times.

While this activity works well for quick review, you can also extend it and keep track of points if your class enjoys a little competition.


Good Idea, Bad Idea

This is a brainstorming activity you can use to target a variety of CELPIP-related scenarios, such as giving advice, dealing with difficult situations, and explaining the reasons behind an opinion. It can be used as a lead-in to any lesson related to suggestions, reasons, or tactful communication. It could also be tailored to a specific grammar point, such as the second conditional or the use of “should” and “shouldn’t” to give advice.

To prepare, come up with a few daily life situations that different people would handle in different ways. Write or type each one on a slip of paper. Use second person. Here are some examples:

  • Your 10-year-old child is struggling with math in school.
  • In a meeting at work, one of your colleagues made a very rude comment to another colleague.
  • Your boss has asked you to work late tomorrow, but you have promised to attend your child’s band concert.
  • You live in an apartment, and your upstairs neighbours are very loud.
  • You need to choose an activity to do with your relatives (2 adults, 2 kids) who are going to visit your city for the weekend.
  • Your 18-year-old nephew wants advice about what to major in in university.
  • Your boss is assigning you too many tasks at work.
  • You are at a fast food restaurant and have received the wrong order.

Group the class into pairs or threes. Give each group one of the situations. Instruct them to discuss two things: firstly, what is the best way they can think of to handle the situation, and secondly, what is the worst way? They should be as detailed as possible, and try to reach agreement about the best and worst solutions. Give them about 4-5 minutes to discuss.

Next, reconvene the class. Ask each group what their scenario was and what best and worst solutions they came up with. Time permitting, allow learners from other groups to make suggestions of their own. Deal with any grammar or vocabulary issues that arise, eliciting solutions from the class and using the board if needed.

If your class is small, this will also work as a full-class activity. You can read out the scenarios and discuss each one as a group.

As a final note, you can leave out the “bad idea” part of this exercise if you don’t feel it would suit your classroom atmosphere—but for instructors who don’t mind a bit of silliness, it will likely lead to the use of some less common vocabulary and generate some memorable ideas.



I had taken other English language proficiency before, and CELPIP was more relatable to me. All of the questions were situations I was familiar with from daily life, and were like conversations I had experienced personally.
- Chrisna D., CELPIP Test Taker
When I took CELPIP, I found it was like speaking English in real life. You speak every day with your boss and with your friends, and the CELPIP Test represents those every-day, real-life language situations.
- Rafaela B., CELPIP Test Taker