Warm Ups… a helpful tool

In my 8th grade classroom, warm ups are a helpful routine. I will often have a few questions on the board for students to work on in the first 5 minutes of class while I sort out attendance & other duties.

The only way I’ve found this works is if I collect the warmups at least once a month. I tell the students to write 3 warm ups per page of paper, use both sides so there are 6 per physical piece of paper. It *really* helps to have them draw 2 lines ahead of time on the paper to subdivide the sections, otherwise they end up getting really sloppy.

I tell the students to save their warmups in the front of their science section in their three-ring binder.

Kids often want to take the paper out of their binder to write. I try to discourage the less-organized students from this, since half the time when they are done writing, they just stuff the paper randomly back into the backpack abyss. I tell them just to open their binder and write on the paper as it stays securely inside the three rings.

Topics for warm ups…

  • review of previously learned concepts. Particularly helpful to reinforce main standards. A little review, frequently, is better than a big chunk all at once.
  • quantitative reasoning (math connections to the science curriculum)
  • preview of new ideas with a motivating ‘hook’
  • problems involving ambiguous answers or frequently misunderstood concepts that can inspire a quick “Think – Pair – Share” classroom discussion

The most important thing to remember about warm up problems is to keep them interesting, at least mildly. How? I try to use sports, movies, or references to common or interesting personal experiences in the topics (as in, “The mass of Harry Potter’s wand is 20 grams. If it is placed in a graduated cylinder filled with water to 55 mL, the water rises to 78 mL. What’s the density of the wand? Malfoy’s wand has a mass of 24 grams and displaces the same amount of water. If they both drop their wands in a lake, which wand will sink? Why?”)

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