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19 Stellar Warmup Questions for Groups

The Plant Method is a great way to teach groups because of its super chill and easy structure. In essence, a Plant Method Group lesson consists of a warmup question, review of previous material, a “bite” of grammar/vocab/listening, and then a group discussion led by the student whose turn it was to prepare the topic, followed by feedback and other error correction.

What better way to warm up your students and get them in English mode than with a fantastic and dynamic question? One that fires them up, and everyone can contribute something because it’s just so universal? Here are some of my favourites! (And no, none of them were created by Chat GPT, these are mine alone!)

(If you have at least four students and access to breakout rooms, put the learners in pairs and have them talk to each other! Have your students forgotten to prepare the topic? Spread this warmup question out into a full-blown whole-class discussion, encouraging your learners to ask each other follow-up questions! Remember, the key to engaging discussions is to ask open-ended questions that people WANT to answer.)

  1. “Glass half empty” or “glass half full”? What kind of person are you and what are some advantages and disadvantages you’ve experienced?
  2. What are some of your most routine tasks at work (or in life) and what is your attitude towards them?
  3. How do you stay motivated when life and projects get hard?
  4. Describe a plant or tree that you’ve had a relationship with – how did it become so meaningful and important to you?
  5. What was a recent challenge you faced in life and how did you overcome it?
  6. Superpowers of the ordinary? What ordinary superpower would you like to have? For example, being able to repel ants from a picnic, always having a clean napkin and cutlery on hand, or never losing a sock in the laundry…
  7. What do you love to do when you have the whole house to yourself, with all partners, flatmates, family members gone?
  8. When you take a day trip, what do you have in your backpack?
  9. If you could create a school curriculum, what subjects would be mandatory? For example, financial literacy (and being able to finish taxes), how to be less awkward in social situations…
  10. What kind of tipper are you at a cafe or restaurant?
  11. What do you have in your fridge right now that would make a super meal?
  12. Self-care is an important aspect of a healthy life. What kind of self-care practices do you follow?
  13. A truly great boss or great teacher can change our lives. Which boss or teacher had a major influence on your life and why?
  14. Power tools! (tools that use electricity to operate) Do you consider yourself handy? What power tools do you have at home for everyday use? What tool would you buy next, given the chance?
  15. Our individual wellness can be broken down into these categories: spiritual, emotional, intellectual, physical, social, environmental, and financial. Describe your thoughts or ideas about these aspects of wellness and where you may be strong or struggling.
  16. If you could have a coffee date with anyone, living or dead, who would you choose and why?
  17. Describe something abandoned or neglected that you saw, whether a house, a car, a toy – and for bonus points, tell us how it came to be abandoned.
  18. What have you binge-watched lately, and would you recommend it to the rest of us?
  19. Insects are so useful, but they can be such a pain. Tell us about your memorable insect experiences, whether good or bad!

These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to interesting warmup questions for individuals or groups. Here are some of my other tips for creating memorable questions:

  1. Stay away from ‘best or worst’ as much as possible – use them sparingly!
  2. Same goes for ‘favourite’ – favourite food, favourite travel destination, favourite book…
  3. Some topics in English lessons have been overdone, such as travel and hobbies. If you are going to create a question about travel or hobbies, think outside the box (such as my ‘what’s in your backpack’ question).
  4. Use resources such as Sean Banville’s ESL Materials site, which includes Breaking News English and Business English.
  5. And go ahead and use Chat GPT to help you think outside the box – just remember, the AI tool is only as good as your prompt or question!

Enjoy having great discussions with your learners! And please share your best or favourite warmup questions in the comments section.


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